Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo); Congressman Collin Peterson (D-Minn), and Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo) introduced a joint resolution in the House of Representatives to nullify the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding in December 2009 that greenhouse gases (GHG) are a threat to human health and therefore could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Congressman Skelton is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
US Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) earlier introduced an identical resolution, S.J. Res. 26, in the US Senate. (Earlier post.)
Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA), Congress has 60 legislative days to review a major rule under expedited legislative procedures and consider a resolution to disapprove of the rulemaking. If a disapproval resolution is enacted, the rule may not take effect and the agency may issue no substantially similar rule without subsequent statutory authorization. If a rule is disapproved after going into effect, it is “treated as though [it] had never taken effect.”
Congress stands in the shoes of the American people. Executive branch agencies, like EPA, carry out the laws passed by Congress. When Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it never gave EPA the explicit authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for the purpose of stopping global climate change. But, that is exactly what EPA has proposed to do.
I do not agree with the EPA or the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that gave the Agency that authority. So, today, I introduced a bipartisan joint resolution to stop EPA from implementing its proposed greenhouse gas regulations that would likely be very costly to farmers, business owners, Midwestern utilities, and consumers.
The resolution of disapproval does not stop Congress from working on important energy legislation, though I do hope it will set aside cap and trade in favor of a more scaled back bipartisan bill. My resolution does, however, keep EPA from threatening Congress with its own greenhouse gas policy as we write legislation.—Congressman Skelton
In addition to precluding future regulation of stationary sources of greenhouse gases by the EPA under the current framework, passage of a disapproval resolution would also nullify EPA’s soon to be introduced final ruling on greenhouse gases from light duty vehicles.
Under President Obama’s national fuel policy (earlier post), the EPA and the Department of Transportation’s NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), are jointly developing a new harmonized national policy intended to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for all new cars and trucks sold in the US.
The resulting set of new standards will cover model years 2012-2016, and will require an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016 (39 mpg for cars, 30 mpg for trucks), or approximately 250 grams CO2/mile.
In response to a query from Senator Diane Feinstein’s (D-Ca) office about the potential impact of the passage of the Murkowski amendment, O. Kevin Vincent, the Chief Counsel for NHTSA, wrote earlier in February that:
As a strictly legal matter, the Murkoswki Resolution does not directly impact NHTSA’s independent statutory authority to set fuel economy standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). However, passage of the Murkowski Amendment would have profoundly adverse effects on the national economy, national environment and energy security objectives, and the economically distressed automobile manufacturing industry. While NHTSA’s promulgation of independent, stand alone CAFE standards would make important contributions, its standards could not avoid those adverse affects.
…given EPA’s grant of the California waiver request in 2009, California and the States that adopted the California standards could move forward to enforce standards that are inconsistent with the Federal standards, thus creating confusion, encouraging renewed litigation, and driving up the cost of compliance to automobile manufacturers and consumers alike.
If the Murkowski Resolution were to be adopted, Vincent wrote, NHTSA would endeavor to fulfill its statutory obligation to finalize a CAFE rule as quickly as practicably as possible, although it would miss the 1 April deadline.