House Republicans and 19 Democrats delivered a major hit to the Environmental Protection Agency this afternoon, passing legislation that bans the federal agency's regulations on greenhouse gases. The bill now heads to the Senate, where similar anti-EPA measures were rejected just yesterday.
The Energy Tax Prevention Act, sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton from Michigan, was written in response to the EPA's proposed permitting regulations on high-producing stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as oil refineries and large cement plants. The agency authorized the regulations under the provisions of the Clean Air Act, using its own endangerment findings to justify their actions. The EPA's study says that at high levels, greenhouse gases are indeed harmful to the health and wellbeing of American citizens. Yet, Republicans question the legitimacy of these claims.
The debate in recent weeks has revolved around climate change and whether or not greenhouse gases emitted from these sources do in fact contribute to changes in Earth's atmosphere. In addition to concerns over climate change, Democrats have also argued that greenhouse gases can contribute to cases of asthma among the country's population, especially children.
Republicans have voiced concern over the level of regulatory power granted to the EPA, calling the agency's new rules on carbon dioxide a "back-door approach" to last Congress' failed cap-and-trade legislation. Supporters of the bill also worry that the EPA's regulations would push manufacturing to other countries, hurting the American economy. Upton wrote yesterday, "If manufacturers cannot compete under harsh U.S. rules, they will have no choice but to send their jobs overseas to nations that may not even provide the most basic environmental protections. Jobs would go overseas, but emissions would not be reduced–all economic pain for no environmental gain."
Yesterday in the Senate, a series of votes on EPA-related amendments indicated how Upton's bill could fare in the upper chamber. Though a number of Democrats voted for one or more of the amendments to limit the EPA's power, each amendment was rejected.
President Obama has said that he would veto the bill if it reached his desk, so for the bill to pass, Senate Republicans need to get at least 60 votes in favor. While the prospects for that seem low, Upton remained hopeful that the bill can gain enough bipartisan momentum in the Senate. In a statement released yesterday, he said, "From the outset, it has been my goal to advance a sensible, bipartisan plan through both the House and Senate so we can stop the EPA and put Congress back in charge of our energy future. Today's Senate vote proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bipartisan consensus is to stop the EPA's regulatory march."
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