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New Bill Declares Greenhouse Gases Are Not Pollutants

March 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency power to regulate air pollutants that are hazardous to public health. In 2009, after conducing a scientific, peer-reviewed study as ordered by the Supreme Court, the EPA determined that six greenhouse gases “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations” and they have begun drawing up regulations. But a group of lawmakers is trying to defeat the science with legislation, and they’re gaining influential allies on both sides of the aisle.

A new bill from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton [R, MI], the Energy Tax Prevention Act takes a heavy-handed swipe at the EPA’s findings. It states that when it comes to climate change, “the definition of the term ‘air pollutant’ in section 302(g) [of the Clean Air Act] does not include a greenhouse gas.” It adds that “such definition may include a greenhouse gas for purposes of addressing concerns other than climate change.” That language is needed because some of the stuff the bill lists as greenhouse gases - hydrofluorocarbon, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons - are undeniably dangerous if they’re wholly outside of regulatory purview.

The bill’s original co-sponsors include Subcommittee on Energy and Policy Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield [R, KY], Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson [D, MN] and 7 others, 6 Republicans and 3 Democrats in total. The bill has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee, so, since it’s introduced by that Committee’s Chairman, it’s not going to have any trouble getting to the full House floor. And the impressive co-sponsor list on a very similar bill suggests that it should have no problem passing in the House.

The New York Times looks at its prospects in the Senate:

On the Senate side, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) also introduced his own form of the legislation — alongside 42 Republican co-sponsors, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.). West Virginia Democrat Manchin has also signed on.

The reception the bill will face in the Senate remains unclear. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D), a strong advocate for clean energy legislation, said yesterday that he did not know if Inhofe’s legislation could muster 60 votes.

Kerry said he would be “surprised” if the Senate voted to permanently strip EPA authority on greenhouse gases, but acknowledged that a measure to delay those rules for two years — as legislation from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) would do — could achieve “more votes.”

So, the votes are probably there in both chambers to pass some version of this. Of course, Obama would undoubtedly veto it. In fact, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson confirmed recently that Obama would “veto any legislation that passed that would take away EPA’s greenhouse gas authority.” And there’s no way both chambers could round up the 2/3rds majority they would need to override. If this gets vetoed, expect the House to add it as a rider to some must-pass bill, like Defense Department funding. In fact, ”">a version of it has already been added to the FY11 continuing resolution, though the Senate Democrats are less likely to let it go through without having first had a full debate.

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