London, (Pal Telegraph) – WASHINGTON—Rep. Fred Upton recently suggested that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson would soon be testifying at oversight hearings so often that she should reserve a personal parking place on Capitol Hill.
With that remark, the Michigan Republican poised to dictate the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s agenda set the tone for how acrimonious the relationship between the 112th Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency might become.
And EPA authorities likely added fuel to an incendiary situation by waiting until Dec. 23—the day after Congress adjourned for the year—to spell out what scientific standards refineries and power plants must meet relatively quickly to limit their prolific carbon emissions.
The timing of EPA’s bold announcement last week aided in smoothing the ruffled feathers of green advocacy organizations, livid because they suspected the president was caving in to bulked-up GOP naysayers empowered by results of the mid-term elections. What ignited their irate reaction was the Obama administration’s early December decision to delay a pair of rules for smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers.
Fury around that double retreat was compounded by angst that EPA’s “tailoring rule” designed to rein in heat-trapping gases via the Clean Air Act could be derailed at a time when congressional resolve to move off the dime on global warming legislation seems to be in short supply.
Clean Air Watch president Frank O’Donnell is among those encouraged by EPA’s latest announcement. Though he lambasted the EPA for backpedaling on the smog and boiler rulings, he understands why Jackson is treading cautiously.
“Upton has made it clear he is going to challenge EPA,” O’Donnell told SolveClimate News in an interview. “And you’ll see challenges in appropriations as well because one weapon Congress has is to threaten to cut off the money by inserting riders into appropriations bills.”
That strategy backfired for former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, he pointed out, because Democratic President Bill Clinton refused to cooperate.
“With various members all fired up about doing something, the EPA is trying to defer a showdown for the time being,” O’Donnell continued. “It’s not a wise time for them to go head-to-head with Congress.”
Trade Groups, GOP on the Attack
All 50 states are supposed to comply with the tailoring rule that kicks in Sunday. The first phase is geared for new or modified coal-fired electricity plants, factories and cement production facilities that emit at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases annually. It requires states to determine if these stationary, large emitters can qualify for federal permits.
While many Democrats lauded EPA’s “common-sense guidance” toward states, Republicans such as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe claim the rule will stymie construction and “keep the economy mired in stagnation.”
“Employers were looking for a clear path forward that would inspire confidence that permits would be granted in a timely manner,” said Inhofe, a climate change denier who is the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee. “They won’t find it here.”
By Elizabeth McGowan