House Ponders Roadblocks to Carbon Control

June 18, 2014

Rep. Eric Cantor’s defeat in the recent Virginia primary has implications for new EPA carbon regs – which were already looking at rough sailing.

National Journal:

And now Eric Cantor’s upset loss has put one of the ozone rule’s congressional critics—House Whip and presumed next Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—in position to keep fighting it from the top.

EPA by December will propose a revision to its regulation for ground-level ozone—or smog—that is linked to asthma and other respiratory problems. It’s part of the regular review of its air-quality standards required under the Clean Air Act, and the agency is expected to lower the standard from the 75 parts-per-billion level set under the George W. Bush administration.

McCarthy’s concerns are closer to home. His Bakersfield district is located in California’s Central Valley, home to some of the worst air in the country. How bad? In the American Lung Association’s 2014 State of the Airreport, four cities in the valley ranked two through five for the worst ozone quality (the lowest-ranked city, Los Angeles, is just south).

That’s largely due to topography. The region is surrounded on three sides by mountains that allows pollutants to pool and get trapped by an inversion layer of hot air. Heavy traffic in the region, coupled with recent economic development and traditional agriculture, means lots of emissions. During hot summer months, the conditions are ideal for dangerous levels of smog.

State officials have worked to mitigate the pollution by placing restrictions on stationary sources, cleaning of diesel fuel, and regulating agriculture, among other efforts. The number of days violating the ozone limits has dropped steadily since 2000. But it’s still been an uphill climb for the region to meet federal standards, and McCarthy, along with other representatives of the region, have said a tighter standard will only open the state up to heavy penalties.

In 2011, his first year as whip, McCarthy introduced a bill that would have delayed implementation of new ozone standards until a local advisory committee studied the feasibility of compliance and would have repealed a fine imposed on the Central Valley (the bill was rendered moot when the standard was pulled).

McCarthy also leads the House Energy Action Team, the partnership that promotes GOP energy priorities and works against EPA regulations. The team’s mission has included work on the air-quality standards. As a hint of its agenda this term, the group will host a briefing Wednesday on air-quality rules featuring former EPA air chief Jeff Holmstead.

Natural Resources Defense Council:

It isn’t just NRDC that says the Chamber and NMA ads are bunk. The Washington Post Fact Checker found plenty of problems in the US Chamber study, including its basic assumptions which “led to other false notes … even by the Chamber’s admission, these numbers do not apply at all to the EPA rule as written… the Chamber’s assumptions were shaky.” The Post’s Fact Checker thought so little of the Chamber’s work that it gave Four Pinocchios – the most Pinocchios a lie can earn – to members of Congress citing it.

Note, that hasn’t stopped the US Chamber’s Karen Harbert from continuing to peddlethe claims from this debunked study, more than a week after the Post Pinocchioed it.

The Fact Checker was busy, as it also checked on the NMA’s radio ads as well. It considered them “bogus” and “hyped,” noting that “This is a case study of how a trade group takes a snippet of congressional testimony and twists it out of proportion for political purposes.”

But something else bugs us too. Some of the same groups that rely on the argument that limiting carbon pollution will raise our electric bills are actively working to block the solutions we can use that will keep our electric bills low. The Koch brothers’-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been behind direct attacks on efficiency programs in the heartland and backing efforts to prevent states from using energy efficiency as a tool to clean up power plant pollution, even though it is the cheapest, fastest way to clean up the air and reduce carbon pollution.

Sound too crazy to be true? Here are some examples:

  • ALEC members in several states sponsored bills to hamstring states from using energy efficiency to meet carbon reduction goals. As my colleague Aliya Haq explained, “These self-defeating bills would take away a Governor’s flexibility in meeting the EPA standard, forcing the state into more expensive and difficult compliance pathways than necessary.”
  • Kentucky Bill Would Take Efficiency Off the Table. According to a March editorial in Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader, legislators pushed a bill that “serves just one global interest, the coal industry” because it would “tie the Beshear administration’s hands, rendering it unable to negotiate with the EPA to protect Kentucky from steep increases in electricity costs” The bill would prevent use of “…the Beshear administration’s ideas for how Kentucky can reduce its greenhouse gas output through efficiency and other means.” March 12, 2014.
  • Americans for Prosperity, Backed by Billionaires Charles and David Koch, Backs Proposal Freezing Efficiency Standards. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Americans for Prosperity and a board member with the American Legislative Exchange Council are pushing for a freeze in Ohio’s energy efficiency standards.   May 20, 2014.
  • Ohio renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates under attack from First Energy. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “FirstEnergy has been circulating a form letter to commercial and industrial customers urging them to lobby lawmakers to amend the efficiency rules. “Tell our elected leaders in Columbus to protect businesses and homeowners from the rising costs of Ohio’s energy efficiency mandates,” the letter reads in part.” March 28, 2014.
  • Indiana’s manufacturing and utility interests backed bill to end the state’s efficiency program. According to Indiana’s Daily Reporter, “Lawmakers approved a bill in March that will halt the state’s fledging Energizing Indiana program on Dec. 31, ending its energy-saving efforts such as low-income home weatherizations”, explaining that “Indiana’s manufacturing and utility interests argued the program, financed through a fee on monthly electricity bills, had proven too costly and industrial users saw few benefits.” June 03, 2014.


Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) has indicated that a bill outlining appropriations for the EPA could include language that would make it difficult to enforce a carbon rule. Simpson, head of the House of Representative’s Energy-Water Appropriations subcommittee and former chairman of the Interior and Environment appropriations panel, told Bloomberg that a potential funding ban would be “in the interior,” referring to the spending bill being drafted for the Department of Interior and EPA. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) admitted as much in a separate interview.

“We’re going to take a serious look at it,” said Calvert, chairman of the Interior-Environment subcommittee. “It wouldn’t surprise me … There’s great interest from a lot of members.”

A funding bill must pass to keep the EPA and Department of Interior operational.

A bipartisan bill out of coal-heavy West Virginia—sponsored by Republican Rep. David McKinley and 3rd District Rep. Nick Rahall—would prevent the EPA from additional emissions regulations for at least five years, unless Congress approved them.

bill proposal from Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) seeks to ban the emissions rule unless other federal agencies verify they wouldn’t promote job loss or the acceleration of electricity prices. Among other things, Daines’ bill refers to jilting coal in favor of renewable energy as consumers being “forced to pay for unproven technology.”


4 Responses to “House Ponders Roadblocks to Carbon Control”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Yep, the latest take here in No VA is that Cantor’s loss is going to solidify intransigence, ignorance, dysfunction, and outright lying in the Repugnant Party. It’s not going to get any easier. We need The Great Disruption to cause The Great Awakening—–soon.

  2. […] Rep. Eric Cantor’s defeat in the recent Virginia primary has implications for new EPA carbon regs – which were already looking at rough sailing.National Journal:And now Eric Cantor’s upset loss has put one of the ozone rule’s congressional critics—House Whip and presumed next Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—in position to keep fighting it from the top.  […]

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