EPA bill passes key House subcommittee test

Lawmakers approved a bill to block Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in a key House subcommittee, Thursday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee voted in favor of the bill with a voice vote along party lines. No amendments were offered, and so far there is no word on when the full committee and House will take up the measure.

In the debate leading up to the vote, Republicans attempted to frame the legislation as a measure that would stop job-killing regulations they argue contribute to high gas prices. Democrats, on the other hand, blasted the bill, calling it extreme, and saying it would roll back reasonable EPA efforts to control dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Tempers flared as the mark-up hearing was riddled with heated exchanges.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, a long-time champion of legislation to combat global warming, repeatedly cited “strange” and “severe weather patterns” as a reason to allow the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.

“History will not judge this committee kindly when we become the last bastion of science deniers,” said Waxman.

“In short it is anti-science, a know-nothing, do-nothing approach to the most challenging environmental problem of our time,” Waxman added.

Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington said the dangers of greenhouse gases are “uncontested science.”

“The single most dangerous allergy today is the Republican allergy to science,” said Inslee. “Since when is it American policy to crawl under the bed and ignore a problem?”

Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts openly mocked Republicans and said he’s worried they might try to “repeal the law of gravity” next, before calling the bill an “arbitrary rejection of science.”

Republicans, on the other hand, pushed their message that their attempt to stop EPA regulations is not about science, but rather, regulatory overreach.

Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray of California accused Democrats and the EPA of using regulations on carbon dioxide to “hijack the Clean Air Act.”

Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas reiterated that point, saying that the “EPA is on a political mission to regulate something that was never intended to be regulated.”

“[This bill] is a logical response to environmental overkill,” Barton added.

The bill, titled the Energy Tax Prevention Act, was authored by Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Greg Whitfield of Kentucky. It was introduced earlier this month with a bipartisan list of cosponsors, including Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Nick Rahall of West Virginia. Among other things, it will permanently do away with the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

Though the legislation is expected to easily pass the House, the coinciding bill in the Senate will have a harder time passing. The Senate is expected to mark up their version in April.