House Prepares to Fight EPA Overreach

Published March 14, 2011

As Congress and the White House lock horns over budget deficits and bureaucratic overreach, the House of Representatives is serving notice it will fight to keep the U.S. economy free of EPA-mandated carbon dioxide restrictions.

Fighting EPA Circumvention
After Congress declined to pass cap-and-trade legislation last fall, President Barack Obama stated, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” To that end, the administration has begun implementing a program to circumvent Congress by imposing EPA carbon dioxide restrictions.

In response, Congress has found its own way of skinning cats. In the early morning hours of Saturday, Feb. 19, the House voted 249 to 177 to block EPA from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from stationary sources, such as power plants, refineries, and manufacturing facilities.

The House did so by using the power of the purse. Under an amendment to a bill funding the federal government to the end of the current fiscal year (Sept. 30), lawmakers ordered that no funds could be used by EPA “to implement, administer, or enforce any statutory  or regulatory requirement pertaining to emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, or perfluorocarbons from stationary sources that it issues or becomes applicable or effective after Jan. 1, 2011.”

Other Climate Programs Targeted

Not content just to prohibit EPA from effectively mandating a cap without trades, the House showed its displeasure with all aspects of the Obama administration’s climate-change agenda. It voted for an amendment to cut off all funds for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The IPCC has come under severe criticism for its role in using fraudulent data from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. EPA made ample use of IPCC data in determining manmade greenhouse-gas emissions endanger the environment and thus should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.  

The House also voted to withhold funds from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the establishment of a White House-supported Climate Service.

And taking the fight straight to the White House, lawmakers refused any funding to replace outgoing energy czar Carol Browner.  Browner is widely seen as the architect of the administration’s global-warming and related energy policies.

Challenging Non-Climate Programs

Republican-led House lawmakers also targeted other EPA regulatory schemes. These provisions include:

•  preventing EPA from regulating agricultural dust;
•  blocking the agency from enforcing new water-quality standards relating to mountaintop removal;
• prohibiting new EPA regulations on coal ash; and
• stopping the agency from imposing new regulations on particulate matter and mercury emissions from cement kilns.

The discontent over current energy policy was so great that even ethanol, which has enjoyed taxpayer subsidies, federal mandates, and tariff protection for years, took its lumps. The House approved an amendment by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) prohibiting EPA from implementing the approval of E15 ethanol in cars. EPA had announced its approval of ethanol blends of up to 15 percent (up from the current limit of 10 percent) in gasoline in cars built after 2001.

The House backed off on these EPA issues as part of a deal to prevent a partial federal government shutdown. Short-term continuing budget resolutions left EPA programs and funding in place, but House leaders insist on including some or all of these provisions in the final 2011 budget.

EPA Game of Chicken
Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said EPA has only itself to blame for the proposed congressional action.

“EPA initially launched these rulemakings in a game of chicken, openly admitting in their warnings to Congress how bad things would be if this path were chosen,” Horner said. “They transparently sought to blackmail Congress into negotiating legislation that they otherwise did not have the political will or popular support to pass.

“EPA was right,” Horner observed. “This is the train wreck they first admitted to and have affirmed with other actions, like the ‘tailoring rule’ seeking to rewrite the statute by the regulatory back door in another admission that the Clean Air Act was not intended for this purpose.”

Horner said if EPA fails to back off of some of its overreach, EPA will be inviting Congress to pass legislation declaring the intent of the Clean Air Act was not to apply to carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases.

“If EPA won’t do the responsible thing and blink, realizing their gambit failed, then Congress has no option but to impose a non-temporary return to the way the Clean Air Act was understood for more than 35 years until a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling unleashed bureaucrats gone wild,” said Horner.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.