Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Join us at the Forum on Progressive Legislation/EPA takes heat on climate rule

The Progressive Working Group of Baltimore/Howard County is hosting a Forum on Progressive Legislation in Maryland Assembly on Feb. 25 from 7 to 9 PM at the Catonsville Library (Baltimore County Public Library), 1100 Frederick Road, Baltimore 21228. Join with others concerned about single payer health insurance, climate change and other progressive issues. Legislators are invited.  Hear updates where legislation stands, and how activists can be more effective in supporting each other on these issues. Email Cindy Farquhar at farquhar.cindy7 at




EPA takes heat on climate rule

By: Lisa Lerer

February 24, 2010 05:28 AM EST


Republicans, major business groups and a handful of coal-state Democrats are launching a barrage of attacks against the Environmental Protection Agency, hoping to stop new rules that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions across the economy.


In December, EPA officially declared greenhouse gases a danger to public health and welfare under the Clean Air Act. The action was mandated by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.


The White House has repeatedly said that the administration would prefer to regulate the emissions through congressional legislation — but has also noted that with no legislation in sight, the agency has no choice but to move forward with the new “endangerment” rules.


“The law of the land found that greenhouse gases are pollutants, and they ordered EPA to make a determination,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday during a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Rather than ignore that obligation, I chose, as administrator, and I believe I have no choice but to follow the law.”


That decision has prompted a broad group of interests to try to stop or suspend the regulations through petitions, lawsuits and legislation.


Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski hopes to bring a resolution to the floor in the next month that would overturn the EPA rule.


She’s attracted support from 35 Republicans and three moderate Democrats — Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — who oppose taking up economywide cap-and-trade legislation this year.


Murkowski says her resolution isn’t intended to block climate legislation but to give Congress more time to enact a bill. Her committee is exploring alternative climate proposals, including a carbon tax, according to aides.


Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is also currently drafting legislation that would suspend EPA action in order to give Congress more time to act on a climate and energy bill.


“EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications, and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency,” he wrote in a recent letter to Jackson.


Seven other coal-state Democrats signed onto the letter, which asked the agency to clarify its timetable and suspend regulations for industrial facilities.


In the House, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has introduced legislation amending the Clean Air Act to exclude greenhouse gases — a radical revision of the country’s pollution regulations.


There are signs that EPA recognizes the risk anxious Democrats could pose to its regulations. On Monday, Jackson, in a response to Rockefeller’s letter, reassured coal-state Democrats that the agency was moving forward cautiously with the regulations. 

Jackson said that no large sources of pollution will be required to cap their emissions in 2010 and that smaller sources would not be subject to permitting until 2016.


Still, Congress isn’t the only group of politicians worried about the new regulations.


During the National Governors Association meeting last weekend, Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour lobbied his fellow governors to sign onto a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to pass a resolution stopping the agency from enacting “costly” regulations.


“While EPA should offer input, complex energy and environmental policy initiatives, like greenhouse gas regulation, should be vetted and considered by Congress and states, not a single federal agency,” Barbour wrote in a draft of his letter.


But many states aren’t waiting for Congress to stop EPA.


Last week, Alabama, Texas and Virginia filed lawsuits challenging the EPA finding. And a coalition of 16 states and New York City have asked a federal appeals court to intervene. Many of those states were litigants in Massachusetts v. EPA, the lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling requiring the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.


A long list of industry groups also rushed to file petitions opposing the ruling before a deadline last week.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced it would file a formal petition challenging the EPA decision as a “flawed” finding that “will lead to other poorly conceived regulations.”


Another powerful lobbying coalition led by the National Association of Manufacturers and including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Home Builders submitted a separate filing.


“These costly burdens and uncertainty will stifle job creation and harm our competiveness in a global economy,” John Engler, NAM president, said in a statement.


The Southeastern Legal Foundation Inc. filed its own petition challenging the EPA finding on behalf of 13 House Republicans and business associations.


Other organizations, including small-government advocacy groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and FreedomWorks, the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau and coal and mining companies have also asked the court to review the finding.


Many of those groups are expected to challenge the science underpinning the finding, arguing that it relies on data from a 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, now under attack by climate change skeptics in the wake of errors recently uncovered in the report and the so-called climategate e-mails.


“EPA’s reliance on the IPCC’s assessment to make a decision of this magnitude is not legally supported,” the state of Texas wrote in its petition. “Since the Endangerment Finding’s public comment period ended in June 2009, troubling revelations about the conduct, objectivity, reliability and propriety of the IPCC’s processes, assessments and contributors have become public.”


Jackson said her finding relied on far more than the IPCC report, including a “comprehensive survey of the soundest available science” and thousands of public comments.


“The science behind global warming is settled,” Jackson told the Senate committee.


The EPA is expected to release rules on automobile emissions next month, followed by regulations for industrial emitters such as power plants and factories.


The agency has already introduced a rule that would limit the impact of its regulations to sources emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually, exempting smaller buildings, farms, schools and other facilities.


© 2010 Capitol News Company, LLC


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