Last week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) rejected Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) idea that the Senate could pass controversial energy legislation, like a federal renewable energy standard, during a lame-duck session after the election. “There are many choices and most of them are controversial, so to think that we could do them quickly in a lame-duck is a long shot,” said Senator Durbin.
He’s right that many of the energy options on the table in the Senate — ranging from a federal renewable energy standard to cap and trade — are controversial. As I mentioned last week, many of these proposals, especially a federal renewable energy standard, are unlikely to pass simply because of the harmful implications they would have on energy costs, jobs, and the economy as a whole.
There is one energy bill that could pass during a lame-duck session, however — Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) proposal to delay the EPA’s greenhouse gas and other regulations for two years, which Senator Reid has promised to bring up for a vote before the end of this year. This proposal would allow Congress to work on affordable, sensible energy legislation without the interference of the EPA — or at least give companies time to comply with the EPA’s costly and cumbersome “train wreck” of expected regulations.
As I’ve written before, the EPA plans to regulate so-called greenhouse gas emitters by requiring them to purchase pollution permits. These regulations would have hit businesses ranging from power plants and factories to farms, schools, and hospitals.
Due to widespread criticism, the EPA attempted to tailor its rule so as to target only the biggest polluters. However, the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule will still impose costly and cumbersome regulations on many other businesses, causing energy prices to skyrocket for everyone and jobs to be lost.
And worse, the Tailoring Rule, the EPA’s attempt to limit the impact of these regulations, breaks from past precedent and would not exempt renewable woody biomass, a clean and carbon-neutral energy source that should not be regulated like traditional fossil fuels. Since President Obama has a stated goal of increasing green energy jobs, it is ludicrous that the EPA would regulate one of our best options for affordable renewable energy and green energy jobs. Furthermore, since the forest industry alone provides 2.9 million jobs and pumps $115 billion into the economy, the EPA shouldn’t be doing anything to harm it, especially while jobs are disappearing and the economy is still struggling.
So, what should the Senate do?
First, Senator Reid should adhere to his promise and allow the vote, so Congress can stand up to the EPA and its misguided regulations. It will send a strong message to the administration, the EPA, and the American people that Congress will not stand for a government agency imposing regulations that will do more harm than good, without any input from elected officials.
Then, if the president still vetoes it, he will have a lot of explaining to do — especially about why he is allowing the EPA to impose regulations that will raise energy costs and cause a loss of jobs during a recession, as well as hinder his own stated goal of creating new green energy jobs.
Let’s hope the Senate makes the lame-duck session a positive force for America, rather than simply a lame waste of time.
Lance Brown is the Executive Director of PACE.