EPA bill passes House committee, amid climate science debate

After a full day of debate on amendments and impassioned political statements, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted on Tuesday to slash the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

While the Republican majority voted unanimously in favor of the measure, which passed 34-19, three Democrats, Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, John Barrow, D-Ga., and Mike Ross, D-Ark., sided with the majority.

Earlier in the day, moderate Democrats, sure to note that they believe climate change is happening, offered up an amendment to ensure that Congress steps into the role the committee voted to strip from EPA.

The amendment, offered by Matheson and amended by Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., to ensure sure that any policy would not adversely affect the economy, energy supplies, and job creation, passed by voice vote.

But Democrats said that was not enough.

"If we don't legislate and we don't regulate, we will do nothing about the problem," Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said, arguing that saying Congress should be in charge is not the same as actually addressing greenhouse-gas pollution.

Certain that the legislation would pass the full committee, committee Democrats spent the majority of the markup making political statements about Republican climate-science denial.

Democrats, such as Waxman and Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Doris Matsui, D-Calif., offered a series of amendments related to climate science, the EPA endangerment finding, and the public health effects of greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change -- all of which were rejected by the Republican majority.

"You can disagree with how EPA acts … but this is science denial. It's not worthy of this committee," Waxman said.

Setting it up so that Republicans would vote against the amendments, Democrats were essentially trying to shine a spotlight on their rejection of the science.

"Now in the permanent record will illustrate what it means to be on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of science," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., warned Republicans who voted in lockstep against all climate-change related amendments.

But Republicans have walked a fine line on climate science. Though Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., have repeatedly noted that "this bill is not about the science," Democrats have made sure to point out that its effects are an "affront on science."

Not allowing themselves to be boxed in as anti-science zealots, many Republicans, excluding Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, shied away from denying climate change during the markup.

"We should not put the U.S. economy in a straitjacket because of a theory that has not been proven," Barton said, maintaining that climate change is a tenuous issue.

Instead of going that far, other GOP committee members walked on the safe side of the Republican aisle, arguing that the bill is a criticism of EPA regulation as a solution to any such problems, as opposed to an attack on science.

Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., said that while he is frustrated with those that deny that a climate change problem exists, the EPA rules are not a real solution, he argued.

"We are literally being passed a placebo by the EPA," Bilbray said. "If you say it's a problem, let's talk about solutions."

In addition to rejecting amendments from Democrats related to climate science, Republicans also shot down amendments addressing public health risks, such as asthma, and health care costs associated with greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change.

As they had before, the committee debated whether the bill preserves fuel efficiency standards when Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., offered an amendment that would allow the EPA to have authority over greenhouse-gas emissions, so long as their actions reduce U.S. demand for oil.

"In voting no, you are providing the funding for our enemies in the Middle East," Markey urged his colleagues.

But committee members on both sides of the aisle rejected Markey's amendment, questioning whether to entrust energy security to the EPA.

The bill is expected to clear the House and will get a full vote before the Easter recess, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., told National Journal Daily on Monday.

"The sooner, the better," Whitfield said of a floor vote. "I knew that they wanted to move it along quickly."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.