GOP Pushes Back on EPA Carbon Regulation

Some Republicans call it a backdoor alternative to cap-and-trade.

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At her fourth congressional hearing in two weeks, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared on Capitol Hill again this morning to defend the president's 2012 budget requests for the agency. House Republicans grilled her on the cost of the agency's regulations, as they attempt make drastic cuts to the EPA's funding in the current budget debate.

Jackson told the members at today's hearing that while she and rest of the Obama administration support cutting the agency's budget to help alleviate the nation's fiscal problems, the Republican plan goes too far. Though it failed in the Senate this week, the House Republicans' funding proposal, H.R. 1, would cut the EPA's budget by nearly a third. In contrast, according to Jackson, the president's 2012 budget request represents a 13 percent reduction from 2010. She argued that the agency's goal of protecting Americans' health would be stifled if the GOP's appropriations cuts were enacted. "You can have both economic growth, and clean air and public health," said Jackson. [See 10 looming budget and spending fights for Obama and the GOP.]

California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman and other Democrats on the Energy and Commerce subcommittees backed her up. "The Republican budget would decimate the agency and its public health mission," said Waxman.

Jackson claimed that the EPA's regulations help to decrease the nation's oil dependence. However, Republicans criticized the agency's regulatory policy, blaming it, in part, for rising costs of energy in the country. "I think every Republican on these joint subcommittees supports a strong EPA and we support strong enforcement of our environmental laws," said Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton. "What we don't support is an EPA that goes beyond its core mission for what I consider to be political purposes or pursues strategies that cost extremely much more than they [result] in benefits."

The most opposition from the right seems to be directed toward the EPA's regulation of carbon emissions, which Republicans are framing as a "backdoor" alternative to last Congress's cap-and-trade bill that failed in the Senate.

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee voted to advance the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. The measure, which will ban the EPA's greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, passed by a voice vote in the subcommittee markup session, and no amendments were offered. On Monday and Tuesday of next week, the full committee will consider the bill, likely passing it along for a vote on the House floor.  [See a slide show of the 10 Cities With the Highest Gas Prices.]

Democrats in the subcommittee who are opposed to the bill argued yesterday that even if the bill passes in the House and the Senate, the president will have the power to block it.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act is part of a larger GOP initiative launched yesterday by House Speaker John Boehner, called the American Energy Initiative. According to a press release from Boehner, the campaign will have three major goals: "Stop government policies that are driving up gas prices; expand American energy production to lower costs and create more jobs; and promote an 'all of the above' strategy to increase all forms of American energy."  [See a slide show of the 10 Cities With the Lowest Gas Prices.]

"If the White House has its way–and the EPA imposes a backdoor national energy tax–gas prices will only go higher," said Boehner in a statement. "Through the American Energy Initiative will work to help lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create new jobs."