June 21, 2012

EPA wears the bull’s-eye

Editor’s Note:  OMB is to be commended for their dilligence in exercising their statutory and Presidentially-delegated authority to protect the economy from unwarrented regulatory actions.

From: Politico


This election year the EPA is toxic.

The Senate is voting on whether EPA planes can take pictures of farms — after  it was mistakenly reported that drones were flying over the heartland. House  Republicans want to cut the agency’s funding to pre-1998 levels. And the  president has threatened to veto a House bill, due up Wednesday, that would  restrict Clean Air Act rules.

Oh, and there were at least 10 — count ’em 10 — Capitol Hill hearings and  markups on environmental matters Tuesday.

Forget drones, EPA could use a missile shield.

This week is just the latest round of a Republican attack that has forced the  White House to hold back on new environmental regulations, lawmakers say — at  least for now.

“They have slowed down some of that stuff, but it’s only until after the  election,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said. “After that, it’s going to be  scary.”

Even some Democrats say the White House has responded to political reality in  slowing down environmental regulations.

“The unrelenting attacks by the Republicans on environmental protection, I  think, have caused people in the administration to be careful to pick their  fights,” said California Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy  and Commerce Committee.

To Republicans, the agency is the very embodiment of what they see as the  worst of President Barack Obama and, as they see it, his liberal policies:  big government reaching into the minutia of businesses.

And the drone rumor follows a list of other strange accusations plaguing the  agency this year, like talk that it would start regulating farm dust (which it  had no plans to do) and spilled milk (a trumped up version of reality).

“They are just an intimidating, overreaching, regulatory body,” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said of EPA. Rahall’s state  recently held a symposium on EPA’s “War on Coal,” a response to regulations now  in effect and in the pipeline that could damage the coal industry.

Mitt Romney has hammered Obama over EPA policies during campaign stops in  coal country. For his part, Obama has warned that a Romney administration would  roll back existing regulations to the detriment of public health, and his  campaign has pointed to instances of Romney reversing past support for  environmental regulations.

“It’s not that people don’t care in Missouri about the environment and it’s  not that they don’t want some basic rules to make sure we have clean air and  water,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told POLITICO. “It’s they don’t want the  overreach. And I think that’s been a political talking point on the other side  that has taken root particularly in the rural part of the state.”

There are currently 25 EPA-generated rules held up in the review stage of the  White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, more than any other  Cabinet department or agency, according to the Office of Management and Budget.  HHS, charged with implementing the president’s health care law, has just 17 in  that pipeline.

The full list of EPA rules in various stages of regulatory purgatory is much  longer. They include mandates on coal ash, gasoline sulfur standards, Clean  Water Act jurisdiction and industrial boilers. Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s air  chief, said Tuesday she doesn’t know when the new boiler rule will be  finalized.

“Still working on it,” she told POLITICO. “Still working on it.”

Last week, EPA sent a letter saying it isn’t prepared to regulate greenhouse  gas emissions from planes, and that it won’t do so for engines on ships and  other off-road vehicles and machines.

Some environmental groups say the agency should fight harder.

“The best defense against political attacks on the Clean Air Act is ambitious  implementation of all its successful clean air programs, because they save lives  and protect the climate. But when the EPA drags its heels on clean air  implementation, big polluters and their lobbyists just sense weakness and  redouble their attacks,” said Kassie Siegel, the director of the Climate Law  Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity.

But the stalled regulations don’t tell the whole story. The  Obama administration has finalized several significant environmental regulations — most under court orders — that have provided fodder for congressional cannons.  They include greenhouse gas limits for new power plants, the mercury and air  toxics rule at existing power plants, requirements to cut methane emissions at  hydraulically fractured natural gas drilling sites, and a heavy hand overseeing  mountaintop mining.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is one of the few Republicans to embrace  environmental regulations. He is a fan of a rule requiring costly power plant  upgrades that would stop mecury and other toxins from getting into the air, and  one that tries to protect downwind states from other states’ pollution.

“That’s what should have been done years ago. These pollutants were  identified in the law in 1990, and 20 years later we’re just getting around to  doing what the courts have ordered EPA to do,” Alexander said.

But for most Republicans and some Democrats the politics are clear: It’s best  to kick the EPA when it’s down. Some are trying to block regulations that the  administration is no longer pursuing.

McCaskill and Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) offered an amendment to the farm  bill that would have stopped the EPA from implementing a farm dust rule that had  been abandoned. (That amendment didn’t make it onto the final list of 73  amendments being debated on the floor this week.) And McCaskill is proud of  her efforts to block a child labor regulation from the Labor Department.

“I want to make sure no one forgets I had a part in killing both of them,”  she said.

For many environmental protection advocates, the battle is a partisan one.  The Republicans who defended the EPA in the 1980s and 1990s are now gone. Waxman  and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) published a report on Monday listing 247 votes the  Republican-led House has taken since January of 2011 that they say would hurt  environmental or public health policy.

And some on the left note that the House Republicans haven’t really won many  battles.

“The toxic cloud of anti-EPA rhetoric from congressional Republicans has had  limited effect because the Senate and the president have kept most of their  nasty little bills to gut our health and environmental protections from becoming  law,” David D. Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council said. “All this  anti-EPA venom appeals to their base, but it is out of step with the majority of  the American people, who consistently say they want EPA to do its job and they  want Congress to keep its hands off the laws that protect our health and our  environment.”

But Republicans made clear late Tuesday that they have no intention of giving  even an inch to the EPA. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.)  and several members of his committee sent a letter to EPA and the White House  suggesting that the federal government is overreaching in its research and  regulation of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is forcing a Wednesday vote on repealing the  EPA’s rule limiting mercury and other air pollutants from power plants, sent a  letter to the agency’s inspector general asking for an investigation into a  controversial natural-gas enforcement case in Texas.

And the White House is fighting back against congressional Republicans. OMB  issued a veto threat Tuesday against a House energy bill that it says would  block implementation of rules associated with the Clean Air Act.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Name not required for anonymous comments. Email is optional and will not be published.