Agribusiness and Climate Change Deniers Try to Stop EPA from Regulating Dangerous GHG Pollution

Summary of recent articles on climate legislation and greenhouse gas regulation.

October 8, 2010 | Source: | by Keith Good, ed.

A news release  yesterday from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that, “[EPA] has issued its fiscal year (FY) 2011 to 2015 strategic plan, which provides a blueprint for advancing EPA’s mission and Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities.

“This plan presents five strategic goals for advancing the agency’s environmental and human-health mission, accompanied by five cross-cutting fundamental strategies that seek to adapt the EPA’s work inside and outside of the agency to meet the growing environmental protection needs of the day. The plan will guide the agency to foster a renewed commitment to new possibilities for achieving the vision of a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable environment.”

The first goal outlined in the EPA plan, “Taking Action on Climate Change and Improving Air Quality: America’s communities face serious health and environmental challenges from air pollution and the growing effects of climate change. During my first year as Administrator, the EPA finalized an endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, proposed the first national rules to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act and initiated a national reporting system for greenhouse-gas emissions. All of these advances signaled historic progress in the fight against climate change. Climate change must be considered and integrated into all aspects of our work. While the EPA stands ready to help Congress craft strong, science-based climate legislation that addresses the spectrum of issues, we will assess and develop regulatory tools as warranted under law using authority of the Clean Air Act.”

Yesterday’s EPA release stated that, “The Administrator has committed the agency to pursuing these priorities in the years ahead to fulfill EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. In addressing these priorities, EPA will continue to affirm the core values of science, transparency and the rule of law. The agency sent notification letters to more than 800 organizations and individuals requesting comment on the draft plan.”

Stephen Power reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson isn’t on any ballots this November. But in some parts of the country, she might as well be.

“Ms. Jackson’s agency is becoming a foil for congressional candidates across the country. In South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem has called for Ms. Jackson’s resignation, citing the EPA’s inaction on a request from ethanol producers to allow more ethanol in gasoline.

“In Arkansas, embattled Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln is blasting Ms. Jackson’s agency for promulgating ‘overreaching, burdensome’ regulations on pesticides used by farmers.”

The Journal article noted that, “The agency’s critics say they are also looking out for ordinary Americans. In West Virginia and Virginia, Democratic Reps. Nick Rahall and Rick Boucher, respectively, are playing up their efforts to stop EPA rules that they say will kill mining jobs.”

“Ms. Jackson, meanwhile, is trying to soothe some of her critics. She met last month with ethanol producers, assuring them she was still considering their request to allow more ethanol in gasoline,” the Journal article said.

More specifically with respect to legislative proposals to delay EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, Darren Goode reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy Blog that, “Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is not committing just yet to backing a plan by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to delay EPA climate regulations, despite opposing the agency’s right to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

“‘He is looking at Senator Rockefeller’s proposal and other options carefully,’ a Baucus spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

“Baucus has expressed discontentment with the EPA’s right to regulate heat-trapping emissions under the Clean Air Act before. He filed several amendments seeking to waive EPA’s authority to regulate climate change in last year’s Senate Environment and Public Works debate on cap-and-trade legislation. Baucus cited the lack of agreement on that and other issues in casting the lone Democratic vote, in committee, against the measure. The bill did not advance any further in the Senate this Congress.”

(FarmPolicy Note: A summary of the Senate EPW Committee vote on climate legislation from November 2009 is available here. A Washington Post article from November 6 noted that Sen. Baucus opposed the measure because he said it “would not do enough to protect farmers.”)

Meanwhile, Darren Samuelsohn reported yesterday at Politico that, “Exhausted Democrats may like President Barack Obama’s suggestion of tackling energy and climate change ‘in chunks’ over the next two years after failing to get a comprehensive package across the finish line.

“But they probably know better.”

The article added that, “Schooled veterans of past energy legislative debates are quick to point out that the regional lines are just as entrenched as the partisan ones, leaving few rifle-shot solutions on the front burner. Any piecemeal approaches Obama may have in mind could make industry lobbyists nervous they’ll eventually be cut out. And individual bills are also tempting vehicles for controversial riders that can bog down the whole process.

“Add to the mix a wide-open GOP presidential primary, and many longtime observers are doubtful they’ll see much energy progress over the next two years.”

And Reuters writer Richard Cowan penned an interesting overview article yesterday titled, “Scenarios: Republican election impact on climate control.”

In part, the Reuters article pointed out that, “If Democrats do better than expected in November, that could revive efforts in Congress for some sort of limited carbon control legislation.

“Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, could bring back their plan to impose a cap on carbon emissions from large electric utilities. Under their bill, pollution permits would be required for each ton of carbon emitted and those permits could be traded on a regulated market, thus setting a price on carbon that in the long-run would make alternative energy sources more competitive.

“Their hope would be that with the congressional elections behind them, senators would be emboldened to take some tough votes and pass a bill that they could argue would supplant more distasteful EPA regulations.”

More broadly on the climate debate, John M. Broder and Elisabeth Rosenthal reported in today’s New York Times that, “With wounds still raw from the chaotic United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen last December, negotiators are making final preparations for next month’s meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in a surly mood and with little hope for progress.

“There is no chance of completing a binding global treaty to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases, few if any heads of state are planning to attend, and there are no major new initiatives on the agenda. Copenhagen was crippled by an excess of expectation. Cancún is suffering from the opposite.”