House Subcommittee Votes to Strip EPA’s Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gases

On March 8, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on climate science and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed regulations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The hearing was held at the request of Subcommittee Democrats in an attempt to curb attempts to hamstring the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), as proposed in a bill cosponsored by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee.

The legislation, called the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 (H.R. 910), would overturn the EPA’s endangerment finding that CO2 and other GHGs threaten public and environmental health, and would bar the EPA from implementing any regulations to control them. Republicans present at the hearing insisted that the science of climate change was still dubious and unsettled, and they had invited two climate change skeptics to testify. Democrats invited five additional distinguished scientists who called for quick action to reduce GHG emissions, although they steered clear of any political or economic means of achieving lower emissions targets. Committee members questioned the witnesses for three hours, but it did not appear that either side of the aisle experienced a change in perspective. At the conclusion of the hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) offered to make the Energy Tax Prevention Act a bipartisan effort before the GOP’s planned markup of the bill, but his offer was denied by Chairman Whitfield.

Two days later, the Energy and Power Subcommittee voted to strip the EPA of its power to regulate GHGs. The voice vote was along party lines, except for Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), who declined to comment on how he voted or how he would vote in the upcoming weeks. The entire House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to vote on H.R. 910 the week of March 14. A full vote on the House floor could be scheduled within weeks. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and 43 co-sponsors have introduced similar legislation in the Senate (S.482).

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