Debate over a bill that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases turned into a rhetorical throwdown today over an issue that has become one of the fiercest political battlegrounds in Congress.
The meeting of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee was expected to be another angry confrontation between supporters of greenhouse gas regulations and climate change skeptics on the committee, and the members delivered.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, opened his comments by saying that he wouldn’t stand to deliver his comments “because I’m worried that the Republicans will overturn the law of gravity, sending us floating about the room.”
“Arbitrary rejection of scientific fact will not cause us to rise from our seats today. But with this bill, pollution levels will rise. Oil imports will rise. Temperatures will rise,” he said.
He closed with the procedural conclusion of yielding back his unused time, then added: “That is, unless a rejection of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is somewhere in the chair’s amendment pile.”
Republicans on the committee who support the bill, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, employed their own rhetorical flourishes in their condemnation of the EPA, which announced its plans to regulate greenhouse gases last year following a finding that the gases endanger the public.
“Today we take the first step to reassert legislative authority over EPA and to stop EPA’s effort to issue global warming regulations that would increase our electricity costs, our gasoline prices, send more jobs to china, and make America less competitive in the global marketplace,” said Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican.
Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, called the legislation “the logical response to environmental overkill.”
“The EPA has been on a mission of political correctness and is trying to regulate something that shouldn’t be regulated,” he said.
Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, called the bill “extreme,” and said Republicans’ assertions that greenhouse gas regulation will inflate fuel prices “laughable.”
“History will not judge this committee kindly if we become the last bastion of the polluter and science denier when carbon emissions rise to record levels and our weather system goes hay-wire, the American people will ask why we acted so irresponsibly,” he said.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.