GOP in House takes aim at EPA authority, funding
Agency’s efforts to curb warming assailed over jobs
WASHINGTON — Vowing to curb the authority and the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, congressional Republicans are attacking the agency to a degree never seen in its 40-year history.
The EPA’s effort to tackle the latest and perhaps most challenging environmental problem, global warming, has made it a central target of the new Republican leadership’s antiregulatory agenda. Having failed last year to enact legislation to curb global warming, the administration is left to use existing law — the Clean Air Act — to start reducing the pollution causing the planet’s temperature to rise.
During a hearing yesterday, GOP members of a House subcommittee contended that such actions will only raise electricity prices and penalize industries that otherwise could be creating jobs.
“Congress intends to reassert itself in the statutory and regulatory process at EPA and specifically the Clean Air Act,’’ said Representative Ed Whitfield, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the subcommittee on energy and power. He is a sponsor of a draft bill that would block the EPA from using the law to control heat-trapping pollution.
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson told the panel that the legislation “would eliminate portions of the landmark law that all American children and adults rely on to protect them from harmful air pollution.’’
During more than two hours of testimony, Jackson said the law and overwhelming scientific evidence on global warming compelled the EPA to act.
The House Energy and Commerce chairman, Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan and the author of the draft bill, denied that it would limit the federal government’s ability to monitor and reduce health-damaging pollution.
Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee chairman, Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky, proposed a $1.9 billion cut, about 18 percent, to the amount President Obama requested for the EPA this year. Rogers’s plan would also shave millions from EPA programs that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, including one that boosts energy efficiency in household appliances and another that collects data on heat-trapping emissions.
The latest and perhaps most Draconian attack came from Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate. Gingrich called for abolishing the EPA and replacing it with an organization more friendly to business.
The agency has been caught before in shifting political winds. Congress, however, nearly unanimously passed the laws that cleaned up the air and water. Longtime observers say the milieu for the agency today has never been more pernicious.
“It has really been quite extreme,’’ William Ruckelshaus, EPA administrator under President Richard Nixon and again under President Ronald Reagan, said of the rhetoric aimed at the agency. “What are they supposed to do? Sit there and do nothing?’’