The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Show-Down in the Senate

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted June 10, 2010

There'll be a show-down in the U.S. Senate today. At issue: Whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act.

On one side of the debate is the administration, which is threatening a veto if the Senate passes a resolution of disapproval stopping the EPA's proposed regulation OF GHGS. On the other side stands Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and the resolution's co-sponsors.

The two sides traded barbs Tuesday, with the administration asserting the EPA regulations would reduce the impacts of "risks associated with environmental catastrophes, like ongoing BP oil spill," and Murkowski charging that linking her resolution with the oil spill "sets a new low."

Murkowski's disapproval resolution has solid backing from business, industry, and many of her Senate colleagues. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.) said in a statement that he intends to vote for it to send a "message that the fate of West Virginia's economy, our manufacturing industries, and our workers should not be solely in the hands of EPA."

Likewise, a group of 24 trade associations, including API, voiced support for the disapproval resolution saying, "The measure will prevent EPA from establishing a de facto new national energy policy via regulation." In a letter, they also urged the Senate to reject efforts to codify EPA's "tailoring rule," which would only delay implementation of a portion of the GHG regulations.

API contends that the Clean Air Act is unsuited for regulating GHGs. It was written 20 years ago to reduce certain pollutants, not carbon dioxide that comes from every home, vehicle, factory, and farm in America.

An estimated six million businesses, both large and small, would be expected to comply with EPA's federal GHG regulations while facing similarly stringent rules imposed by the states. It's not clear what technologies would be required to reduce GHGs or how much they would cost. Together, the federal and the state rules would likely add costs, slow business expansion, and eliminate jobs.

Furthermore, EPA's so-called tailoring rule doesn't solve the problem because it merely delays the time when big box stores, churches, athletic complexes, malls, office buildings and vast numbers of other facilities would fall under the intrusive and costly regulations.

Also, EPA's tailoring rule could be illegal. The Clean Air Act does not contain language that allows EPA to change it. Only Congress can amend laws, not federal agencies.

The debate over Murkowski's disapproval resolution is expected to begin today on the Senate floor.

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Update on June 10, 2010:

The resolution of disapproval was voted down in the U.S. Senate 53-47. API expressed its disappointment in the following statement:

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should not move forward with regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Air Act was never intended, nor should it be used, to address climate change. It was designed to control traditional air pollutants, not greenhouse gas emissions that come from every vehicle, home, factory and farm in America.

Congress should address climate change through comprehensive legislation in a way that protects the American economy. EPA's approach could not only discourage investments in domestic oil and natural gas projects - limiting U.S. production and increasing import dependence - but it also is likely to delay business expansion, hurt job creation and throw state economies into slow motion as they are inundated with added permitting work.

We hope the Senate will quickly take up Senator Jay Rockefeller's resolution to delay EPA rules by two years to give time to Congress to act."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.