House committee debates effects of GHG regulations

By Kris Bevill | February 09, 2011

Job creation, economic impacts and climate change were the topics of discussion during a Feb. 9 U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing to discuss draft legislation that would amend the Clean Air Act to prevent the U.S. EPA from enforcing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations.

The bill’s co-sponsors, Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said the EPA’s enforcement of GHG regulations would result in jobs being outsourced to other countries and increased energy prices for consumers. Upton said regulating emissions from fossil fuels would drive up the price of what is currently the United States’ most affordable form of energy. “It’s worth noting that for all the mentions of ‘clean’ energy in the President’s State of the Union, he never once mentioned keeping energy ‘affordable,’” he said. “’Affordable’ energy is what keeps our economy moving.”

In testimony delivered to the subcommittee, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson countered that the agency’s implementation of the Clean Air Act has contributed to the growth of the environmental technologies industry. She testified that in 2008, that industry generated $300 billion in revenues and $44 billion in exports. “The bill appears be part of a broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public,” she said, adding that 11 electric power companies have said the EPA’s approach to emissions regulations is reasonable. “Chairman Upton’s bill would block that reasonable approach,” she said. “The Small Business Majority and the Main Street Alliance have pointed out that blocking action would have negative implications for many businesses, large and small, that have enacted new practices to reduce their carbon footprint as part of their business models. They also write that it would hamper the growth of the clean energy sector of the U.S. economy, a sector that a majority of small business owners view as essential to their ability to compete.”

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., brought up the EPA’s three-year delay on making a decision regarding GHG permitting requirements for biogenic emissions and said that it is stifling investment in the clean energy sector. “We’ve got a lot of people who want to invest in new, high-tech biomass facilities to turn woody biomass into renewable energy,” he said. “They’re concerned you’re going to come back in 2013 or later with a rule that treats biomass as if it were coal or oil. The President wants to see $2 trillion come off the shelves and get invested, but it’s rules like this that are causing people trying to make those decisions to wait.”

Jackson said the three-year delay is necessary in order to conduct scientific research on emissions from woody biomass and declined to offer any prediction regarding the agency’s final decision.