As widely anticipated, Republicans in the House of Representatives have wasted no time with their efforts to neuter the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using the first two days of legislative business last week to introduce several bills that would strip the watchdog of its right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The newly empowered Republicans tabled three separate bills, all of which aim to thwart efforts by the Obama administration and the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and power and industrial plants, using the existing Clean Air Act.
A bill introduced by representative Ted Poe of Texas would block the EPA from drawing on any funds to implement and enforce regulations covering greenhouse gas emissions, while a separate bill tabled by representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the regulation of greenhouse gases under the legislation.
Meanwhile, representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia introduced a more modest bill that would delay EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by two years -- a proposal that has also been pursued by some Democrat legislators from coal states, including Jay Rockefeller.
The three new bills represent the first shots in what is threatening to become a ferocious battle between Republicans and Democrats over the EPA's right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and the direction of the Obama Administration's wider climate change strategy.
Further measures are expected to be announced by Republicans in the coming months as they seek to roll back regulations they believe will damage the economy and drive up energy costs.
For example, representative Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who is the new chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, revealed last weekend that he is considering deploying the rarely used Congressional Review Act to strip the EPA of its powers.
However, Democrats are also preparing to mount a robust defense of the EPA's right to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, with Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, insisting she will use "every tool available" to oppose Republican efforts to dilute the EPA's powers.
Speaking to reporters last week, Boxer offered a detailed defense of the EPA's legal right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in response to a Supreme Court ruling. She also rejected suggestions from Upton that the EPA was over-reaching and only acting because Congress failed to approve new climate change laws.
"When the new chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee says EPA cannot pass by regulation what Congress failed to pass by law, let me correct him: Congress passed our Clean Air laws, Republican presidents signed them, and those are the laws the EPA is following," Boxer said. "Let me send a clear message to Chairman Upton ... I want to tell him that I will use every tool available to me as chair of this committee and as senator from California to oppose any legislative effort that threatens the health, or safety, or well-being of the people of America -- that includes his desire to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act."
In related news, the start of the 112th Congress also featured the official closure of the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, the only Congressional committee dedicated to tackling climate change.
This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.com and is reprinted with permission.
Image CC licensed by Flickr user kevindooley.