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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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  • SimplyConservative 03/04/2011 12:23pm

    “But a group of lawmakers is trying to defat (I believe you meant to say “defeat”) the science with legislation…" Humans emit 6.5 gigatons of co2 each year. Nature emits 150 gigatons each year through volcanoes, decaying foliage, and a plethora of other sources. That is twenty three times more. Even if we were able to remove ALL the co2 emissions on the planet it would barely put a dent into what nature can dish out. Besides, the sun is to cause for climate change. Al Gore’s infamous hockey stick graph has been widely discredited and the science is on our side. You are swimming against the scientific tide.

  • Comm_reply
    beneficii 03/05/2011 12:02pm

    Though I cannot vouch for your exact numbers, it is true that nature emits far more CO2

  • Comm_reply
    cgardner2020 03/06/2011 6:05pm

    Correct me if i’m wrong please, Trees exhale carbon in the Fall and essentially inhale in the spring. Also your numbers seem inaccurate, please list sources for your information. And I hope you get paid well to sit around commenting all day and spread lies!

  • beneficii 03/05/2011 12:08pm

    Though I am not 100% sure of your exact numbers off the top of my head (and they are less relevant than you think), you are correct that nature emits far more CO2 than humans do each year. What you leave out, however, is that human emission make the difference at the margins.

    It isn’t just about emissions, it’s also about absorption. There is a carbon cycle that keeps CO2 levels in equilibrium. Nature absorbs nearly all of the carbon emitted by nature, but when human emissions are added to the mix there is no significant increase in absorption.

    It has been measured that human emissions is several times as great as the margin between nature’s emissions and total absorption, so human emissions results in the net gain of CO2 increasing by several hundred percent.

    Here is more info on it:

    As for solar:

  • rsimonea 03/05/2011 2:15pm

    The continued loss of forests that absorb CO2 needs to be taken into consideration given that there will be a tipping point where the earth bio-sphere cannot sustain appropriate levels of oxygen. However, lost in the debate besides global warming is that nitrogen and sulphur based gases become acidic and burn foliage either as liquid or solid participates. The continued degradation of maple trees and the increased acidification of the worlds oceans are two examples that come to mind. One of the best sources for global aggregate data is GEO 4 put out by the United Nations. GEO 5 is currently being developed. The United Nations also put out a smaller GEO 5 executive summary for decision makers.

  • LDishman 03/06/2011 4:11am

    Do you really believe the UN? Seriously?

  • SimplyConservative 03/07/2011 6:29pm

    @cgardner2020: “And I hope you get paid well to sit around commenting all day and spread lies!” Whats with the rhetoric? I believe a difference of opinion can be handled a little more respectfully than that…

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