24 Dec 2010

Upton vs. Wall Street and EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions standards plan

Written by Jim Pierobon

Fred Upton, the incoming Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, essentially declared war on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s just-announced plan for setting limits on harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants and oil refiners.

“We will not allow the administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” he said. “This Christmas surprise is nothing short of a backdoor attempt to implement their failed job-killing cap-and-trade scheme,” he said.

Republican Fred Upton represents Michigan's 6th District

The EPA says it wants a clear path forward for setting these limits and was getting pressure from the a White House left hanging by the lethal BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico just before Earth Day this year.

The push stems from the by the EPA’s finding in April 2009 that carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions pose a danger to the public health. It was viewed as the first step in a major shift in the U.S. government’s approach to addressing climate change. And it fed hopes by enviromentalists that Congress would pass cap and trade legislation during President Obama’s first two years as President. Since that did not happen the showdown over what some observers are calling Obama’s “end-run strategy” is set for 2011.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and refineries in December 2011 and issue final standards in May and November 2012, respectively. According to POLITICO, The EPA is pledging to be cautious as the battle lines form. “Listening sessions” with industry are to be scheduled soon, the EPA said.

The incoming GOP majority in the U.S. House can play several games with the EPA. It can try to shape the agency’s funding starting as early as March. If they can get the Democratic-controlled Senate to go along, Congress could mandate that no funds be spent from EPA’s budget for the purpose of creating or enforcing greenhouse-gas emissions.

It could defund the agency entirely. This scenario could set up colorful debate and lead to a government shut down. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller has proposed a two-year moratorium on EPA regulatory expansion.

Wall Street, utilities and many other business interests, in the mean time, are pleading for regulatory certainty that the private sector yearns for to make it profitable to sell clean energy solutions. Says the National Wildlife Federation: “…establishing these performance standards will create the “regulatory certainty” that many utilities want to see before they start reducing their carbon pollution.

A new report by the Main Street Alliance speaks to the economic benefit of creating pollution standards and just two weeks ago a number of utilities wrote to the Wall Street Journal supporting pollution limits under the Clean Air Act.

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