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Lawmakers With Energy, Manufacturing Ties Oppose EPA Regulations

March 4, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D, WV] is the latest in a bipartisan series of lawmakers who are trying to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Not-so-coincidentally, many of these lawmakers have ties to the industries that would be most affected.

Rockefeller today introduced the Stationary Source Regulations Delay Act, which would prevent the EPA from regulating the greenhouse gases emitted by power plants and industrial manufacturers. The Washington Post has the bill for you to read here.

As I have discussed before, a 2007 Supreme Court ruling allows the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act. As part of the Obama administration’s plan to tackle climate change, the agency plans to use that authority – first by limiting emissions by cars and light trucks and then by targeting power plants, industrial manufacturers and other “stationary” sources of greenhouse gasses.

The administration’s preferred way to deal with this issue is for Congress to pass comprehensive climate change legislation with a mechanism, such as a cap-and-trade system, to limit carbon emissions. The House passed such a bill last year (H.R.2454) but the Senate has struggled to follow suit. Without something like a cap-and-trade system, the administration has turned to EPA regulations.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy [D, ND-0] last December introduced a bill similar to Rockefeller’s (H.R.4396) that would strip the EPA of this regulatory power unless the agency first gets permission from Congress.

Besides passing laws limiting the powers of the EPA, Congress also has the option of passing a “resolution of disapproval” overturning regulations set by the legislative branch. This includes the EPA’s power over carbon emissions.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] has been pushing such a resolution (S.J.Res.26) since January. Rep. Ike Skelton [D, MO-4] has a similar resolution (H.J.Res.76) in the House.

Despite the bipartisan nature of the effort to stop the EPA regulations, all these measures are unlikely to become law. Aside from having to pass both chambers of Congress, they also must survive a likely presidential veto.

Most of these lawmakers justify their position by saying that EPA regulations will hurt the economy and that they are protecting jobs – or as Rockefeller puts it, they’re taking an “important action to safeguard jobs, the coal industry, and the entire economy.”

Of course, money also plays an important role. EPA regulations of “stationary” greenhouse gas emitters will hit two industries particularly hard: energy and manufacturing. And a quick stroll though shows that all of the sponsors of the aforementioned legislation have received tens of thousands of dollars from both industries in just the current election cycle:

  • Rockefeller, whose state of West Virginia is heavily reliant on coal, can include among his top donors energy giants like American Electric Power, CONSOL Energy and Peabody Energy – the largest private-sector coal company in the world.
  • Some of Murkowski’s top donors are Constellation Energy, Exxon Mobil, Southern Conmpany and Chevron.
  • Rep. Skelton has received significant campaign donations this year from industrial manufacturing firms such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
  • And Rep. Pomeroy’s top donors include manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and energy companies such as National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Xcel Energy, Tesoro Petroleum and Entergy Corporation.
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