When the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill passed in the House before last year’s summer recess, Members voting for its passage heard loudly from constituents. Since then the Senate has been reluctant to move forward with a counterpart. It took Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Kerry (D-MA) nearly a year to release their cap and trade bill.
But what Congress has failed to do, the Environmental Protection Agency is willing and able. The agency has already begun the process of imposing costly and environmentally questionable CO2 cuts by using the Clean Air Act. Recognizing the severe problem with this approach, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will bring legislation to the Senate floor for debate on Thursday to stop unelected government officials at the EPA from micromanaging the economy.
Murkowski is using the Congressional Review Act to disapprove of the EPA Administrator’s endangerment finding that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant and harmful to human health and the environment. Murkowski and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed to bring the joint resolution, S.J. 26, to the floor June 10th, which will consist of up to six hours of debate before voting on a motion to proceed. If the motion is successful by 51-vote majority, the Senate would then allow for an hour debate before voting on its passage, which also requires 51 votes. The disapproval resolution is immensely important because as Ben Lieberman explains:
Even putting aside growing doubts about the seriousness of the alleged global warming threat, the fact that the Obama Administration is bypassing America’s elected officials and putting legislative authority in the hands of an unelected bureaucracy is objectionable in its own right. Senator Murkowski has recognized that this is precisely the kind of regulatory excess for which congressional restrictions are needed. Her resolution of disapproval would revoke the EPA’s endangerment finding, without which subsequent global warming regulations could not be imposed.
Allowing the EPA to enforce carbon dioxide cuts would inflict a massive amount of economic pain, in terms of higher energy prices and unprecedented regulatory compliance costs. It’s no surprise representatives from the agricultural, small business and manufacturing industries are adamantly supporting Murkowski’s disapproval resolution.
EPA is trying to minimize the economic pain, just temporarily, for smaller entities by raising the pollution thresholds in the Clean Air Act. Known as the tailoring rule, the change stands on shaky legal ground – floods of lawsuits are likely to come from environmental groups that believe the EPA should regulate anything and everything. The tailoring rule would only be in place until 2016 and then the millions of smaller entities become fair game again. The American energy consumer will have no such luck. Individuals, small businesses, farms, churches, schools and homes will immediately be hit with higher energy prices passed on by the larger energy industries that will be regulated.
Enforcing carbon dioxide cuts in any way, shape or form is bad policy that will raise energy prices on Americans for years to come. Having the EPA is, by Administrator Lisa Jackson’s own admission, not the most effective way to regulate CO2 since it comes with higher administrative compliance costs for businesses, higher bureaucratic costs for enforcing the regulations, and higher legal costs from the inevitable litigation. Lieberman asserts that “Congress should put such decision-making authority back where it belongs and prevent perhaps the costliest example of regulatory excess from seeing the light of day.” The Murkowski resolution of disapproval would do just that.
Nicolas Loris is a Research Assistant at The Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. Loris studies energy, environment and regulation issues such as the economic impacts of climate change legislation, a free market approach to nuclear energy and the effects of environmental policy on energy prices and the economy.
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