Politics

House votes to block costly EPA power grab

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment that would make it more difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate without congressional approval.

The bill passed on Thursday with bipartisan support and was widely supported by conservative groups worried that the Obama administration could use the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) estimate to justify new environmental regulations.

“Today’s vote by the House of Representatives to block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing a backdoor carbon tax on American consumers demonstrates that both Republicans and Democrats are opposed to key components of the administration’s climate change plan,” said Benjamin Cole, spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, which has worked with other groups to oppose the use of the SCC in creating new regulations.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration quietly raised the SCC from $21 per metric ton to $35 per metric ton ahead of the unveiling of his plan to address global warming, which included capping carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

When the social cost of carbon is raised, it makes the costs of imposing emissions limits on power plants lower while inflating the claimed benefits.

“There was no public debate, no stakeholder comment, no vote in Congress on this new estimate,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, who introduced the amendment, on the House floor on Thursday. “We’ve already seen what the social cost of the war on coal is today. The cost is jobs.”

The amendment was part of a larger bill that aimed to bring more accountability to billion-dollar EPA regulations. The Energy Consumers Relief Act requires the EPA to submit a report to Congress on the economic impacts of energy-related rules costing more than $1 billion. Under the bill, the agency can only finalize the rule once the energy secretary has signed off.

“This Administration’s EPA continues to propose rules, that by their own estimates are the most costly in history, yet the research on the benefits of these rules is unclear,” said Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson. “What is clear is that overregulation kills our economy, destroys American jobs, and raises energy prices on American families and businesses.

However, this is only the beginning of the Republican effort to target carbon dioxide regulations. Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise introduced an amendment to the REINS Act that would require congressional approval of major regulations, including “any rule that implements or provides for the imposition or collection of a tax on carbon emissions.”

“Regardless of the name, and it has had many over the years, the effect of a carbon tax will always be the same – higher energy costs on families and fewer jobs here at home,” writes Scalise in an op-ed. “Make no mistake — implementing a carbon-tax under the guise of environmental regulations is just the latest salvo in the liberals’ pursuit of their radical agenda, and yet another attempt to feed their unquenchable thirst for job-killing tax hikes.”

The White House has repeatedly denied having any plans to propose a carbon tax, but some argue it would be preferable to slapping more EPA regulations onto the economy.

“Those of us on the free enterprise side of this discussion see a definitional opportunity here,” said Bob Inglis, executive director of the pro-carbon tax Energy & Enterprise Initiative. “Rep. Scalise is helping to define three things that what we don’t want: a carbon tax that’s revenue-raising, that attaches only to American manufactured products and that the EPA enacts by regulatory fiat.”

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