Republicans look to prohibit EPA regulation

/ Source: The Associated Press

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives intend to try to prohibit the U.S. environmental agency from regulating greenhouse gases, officials said, in a sharp challenge to the Obama administration.

Officials said legislation to be offered Wednesday would nullify all of the steps the Environmental Protection Agency has taken on the issue, including its finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health.

In addition, it seeks to strip the agency of its authority in attempts to crack down on emissions from factories, utilities and other sources. Numerous House Republicans already have introduced legislation that would hamstring the agency from moving forward with regulations to reduce heat-trapping pollution.

The efforts mark yet another arena in which newly empowered Republicans are moving quickly to challenge the administration since the party took over the House and gained seats in the Senate.

Sworn into office less than a month ago, the House has already voted to repeal last year's health care bill, defying a veto threat from Obama as well as the Democratic Senate speaker's insistence that he would not call the bill up for a vote. It is also advancing toward a series of expected confrontations with Obama over demands for deep spending cuts.

Many scientists say carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution contribute to global warming, and the attempt to reduce them is a major priority for President Barack Obama as well as environmentalists. Critics argue the evidence is thin and new rules would drive up costs for businesses and consumers and cause job losses.

The officials who described the Republican plans did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to pre-empt the release of a draft measure.

Meanwhile, EPA chief Lisa Jackson was due on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. She probably will have to defend steps by her agency to control air pollution and water pollution to Republicans in the Senate, who have introduced bills of their own to delay regulations aimed at abating climate change, or to bar the government from using any environmental law to fight global warming pollution.

A vote on the House greenhouse gases bill would occur first in the Energy and Commerce Committee, and is expected later this winter. The measure would then go to the House floor, where Republicans express confidence they have a strong enough majority to overcome objections by Democrats, many of whom are expected to oppose it on environmental grounds.

The political situation is more complicated in the Senate. Sen. John Barrasso has introduced a more sweeping measure than the one House Republicans are drafting. At the same time, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller has proposed a two-year moratorium on EPA attempts to regulate greenhouse gases, a plan that already has attracted a handful of Democratic supporters.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the agency has authority to regulate greenhouse gases, but it wasn't until the Obama administration took office that the effort began.

Initially, the administration's principal focus was on passage of legislation to impose restrictions, but that attempt failed when the Senate balked at a bill Democrats pushed through the House in 2009.