A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
In Defense of the Clean Air Act and EPA
Nick Mann: Legislative Program Assistant EnvironmentWhen the Senate failed to pass climate legislation this summer, opponents of curbing greenhouse gases turned their attention to preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from responding to the climate crisis. Without national climate legislation, the EPA’s power under the Clean Air Act is our best defense against global warming. It is imperative that the environmental movement stand up to the furious lobbying efforts of those, including coal companies and big businesses who continue to reap benefits from the status quo.
For many people the sudden flurry of activity surrounding EPA regulations may seem to have materialized out of nowhere, especially after a summer filled with speculation over major climate legislation. But in the 2007 Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. EPA, the court ruled that the EPA has the authority and obligation to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Since then EPA has produced a flurry of climate regulations. The most controversial, the regulation of large stationary sources, will be introduced in January 2011.
The coal industry and other opponents have already mounted a fierce challenge to EPA action. In June, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) introduced a resolution that would have stripped the EPA of its regulatory ability. This resolution failed narrowly. In addition, Sen. John D. Rockefeller (W.Va) has introduced a bill (S. 3072) that would prevent the EPA from acting for two years. He has been promised floor time for a vote when Congress returns after November Elections for a lame duck session.
Even though President Obama has promised to veto any limit on the EPA’s authority, the real threat comes in the form of a potential appropriations rider. Any member of the Appropriations Committee could offer a proposal such as Rockefeller's to the budget that would deny EPA funding to regulate green house gas emissions from stationary sources. Just last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee canceled a markup of EPA’s budget, in which opponents of the EPA may have had the votes to deny funding for at least a year.
The cancellation of the EPA’s budget markup is a small victory, but one that will very likely come up again and again, especially after the November elections. The EPA budget and the threat of a rider are a real concern that could prevent the EPA from working on global warming. The reality is that from now on every time the EPA proposes regulations, Congress will have the ability to put forth a resolution limiting the EPA’s regulatory powers.
The Clean Air Act and the EPA are currently the best tools we have to address climate change. Even though we should not give up on the effort to pass comprehensive climate legislation, it is crucial to preserve the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Every time the Clean Air Act or the EPA are threatened in the coming months the environmental movement needs to be ready to jump into action and let our members of Congress know that their constituents support the EPA and the Clean Air Act as they continue to address global warming, the most pressing environmental issue of our time.
For more information:
EPA's Emissions Regulations information
"Environmentalists back on Defense" - Politico.com (9/20/2010)
"40 years of clean air progress" - Grist.com (9/17/2010)
"Feeling Heat on Climate, EPA Celebrates Its Past" - New York Times (9/15/2010)