The bitter debate over climate change is heating up again as newly empowered congressional Republicans attempt to strip environmental regulators of their power to curb carbon emissions.
House Republicans are preparing the Energy Tax Prevention Act 2011 which would shift regulatory powers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the legislative branch.
“Cap and trade legislation failed in the last Congress, but now we face the threat of EPA bureaucrats imposing the same agenda through a series of regulations,” said Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan who is chairman of the energy and commerce committee and one of the originators of the bill.
The EPA was granted sweeping powers by amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 to regulate a variety of air pollutants. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the act’s definition of “air pollutant” could include greenhouse gas emissions. Soon after the Obama administration was sworn in, the EPA itself ruled that carbon emissions endanger public health and the environment, giving it the potential power to regulate them.
Republicans say that the Clean Air Act does not grant the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
In testimony to the committee on Wednesday, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said the Republican bill would overrule scientific findings regarding greenhouse gas emissions. “Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question – that would become part of this committee’s legacy,” she added.
Democrats believe the bill is based on a denial of science. “The underlying premise of this bill is that climate change is a hoax,” said Henry Waxman, ranking member on the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate, has claimed that climate change is a “hoax”.
Republicans claimed further that regulating carbon emissions is too costly for the US economy. “We have to run this machine called America,” said Mr Inhofe, adding that the Kyoto treaty would cost up to $400bn a year through higher food and energy prices. “It is unfair and unacceptable to ask the steelworker in Ohio, the chemical plant worker in Michigan, and the coal miner in West Virginia to sacrifice their jobs so we can reduce temperature by a barely detectable amount in 100 years.”
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