About Air and Water

Friday, February 11, 2011

Texas AG asks U.S. House to block regulation of greenhouse gas emissions

By DAVE MICHAELS Washington Bureau The Dallas Morning News - Feb. 9, 2011
WASHINGTON — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked Congress on Wednesday to block the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, saying legislation would allow him to drop his lawsuits over the rules.
Abbott testified at a congressional hearing where Republican lawmakers grilled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson over her agency’s move to regulate climate-altering gases emitted by industrial facilities.
A Republican bill would overturn the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and would prevent the agency from using the Clean Air Act to address climate change.
Texas’ fossil fuel producers, utilities and other businesses stand to benefit if Republicans succeed in blocking regulation, although President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto the bill. Texas Republicans have been at the forefront of efforts to stymie the EPA.
Abbott has filed six legal challenges of EPA regulations that address climate change. One of the lawsuits challenges the decision to invalidate parts of Texas’ clean-air program over its refusal to award permits for greenhouse gas emissions.
“I am here to tell you that if your legislation passes, that will mean that Texas will be dismissing those six lawsuits against the EPA,” Abbott told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Jackson said the EPA was forced to take over parts of Texas’ clean-air program because the state failed to carry out its responsibilities. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets thresholds for regulated pollutants, which states must enforce.
Texas’ refusal
While other states have challenged EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, Texas is the only state that refused to include greenhouse gases in its clean-air program. Jackson said businesses that wanted to build in Texas would have been unable to get permits without the EPA’s intervention.
“The Nucor steel facility just got a permit in the state of Louisiana,” Jackson told the committee. “If they wanted to build the exact same facility in Texas, they would need a permit for greenhouse gases — and they cannot get one because Texas refuses to consider those permits.”
Jackson also clashed with Texas Republicans on the committee over dozens of pollution permits that were invalidated when the EPA rejected three Texas permitting programs in September 2009. The EPA said the Texas programs failed to meet the standards set by the Clean Air Act.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, complained to Jackson that Texas was singled out for disapproval, while other states with similar programs weren’t challenged.
“This appears to be Texas-specific,” Burgess said. “And if it is, that is wrong.”
But Jackson said EPA’s concerns with the quality of Texas’ clean-air programs went back to the Bush administration.
“When I became administrator, I found a situation where businesses in Texas have no certainty that the permits protect them from lawsuits for excessive pollution,” Jackson said. “The answer certainly could not have been to look the other way.”
Jackson testified on the same day that House Republicans unveiled their proposals for spending cuts, including a $1.6 billion budget cut for EPA in 2011. Such cuts could hurt the EPA’s ability to carry out its regulatory agenda.
‘Highhanded’ EPA
The agency has become a prime target for House Republicans who question the science of global warming and assert that EPA regulations create uncertainty for business.
“The EPA has been highhanded in Texas,” said Rep. Joe Barton , R-Arlington. “I don’t think the EPA had the authority to revoke these existing permits, and I think their [carbon dioxide] regulations are extremely onerous if implemented.”
Barton said the committee would probably approve the legislation, called the Energy Tax Prevention Act, in the next two months. Sen. James Inhofe , R-Okla., has sponsored the legislation in the Senate, where its path to passage is much less certain.
Some House Democrats, including Rep. Gene Green of Houston, said they disapproved of EPA regulation of greenhouse gases and preferred Congress to set standards. But it’s not clear that Green and other Democrats would vote for the GOP bill.
Much of Wednesday’s hearing revolved around Republicans and Democrats arguing about whether man-made activities are to blame for climate change.
Republicans faulted Democrats for ignoring the regulations’ impact on jobs and energy costs. Democrats blasted Republicans for trying to legislatively overturn the EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health.
“Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question — that would become part of this committee’s legacy,” Jackson said.
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

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