Republicans Aim to Limit EPA Power Through Polluter-Friendly Legislation

Republican U.S. Senators are following in the footsteps of House Republicans in their attempt to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of their ability to regulate carbon emissions. A total of eleven Republicans have signed onto the Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act that would prohibit the EPA from regulating any global warming pollution without Congressional approval.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a climate change denier who created the bill, claims that it will “shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy.” Barrasso and his Republican co-sponsors believe that the EPA’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are a backdoor effort to enact “cap and trade” policies.

Since he came to Congress in 2007, Barrasso has received $179,750 from oil and gas interests, and another $133,000 from electric utilities, for a total of $312,750 from dirty energy interests.

Seven co-sponsors have joined Barrasso’s bill, including climate change denier Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee. Since 2005, Inhofe has received $452,050 from oil and gas interests and another $216,654 from electric utilities. Notably Koch Industries is the Senator’s largest contributor since 2005 and has contributed $62,750 to him since 1999.

Kochtopus-funded organizations are lined up to support the legislation as well, including Americans for Tax Reform (which has received more than $60,000 from the Kochtopus), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (which has received close to $500,000), and Americans for Prosperity (which has received more than $5 million). Indeed, American’s for Prosperity’s Director of Government Affairs, James Valvo, already sent a letter commending the Senator’s efforts:

The federal government should not undertake efforts to stem GHG emissions unless Congress instructs them to do so.”

Your bill goes beyond the obvious threat of EPA action under the Clean Air Act and prohibits more clandestine—and thus more insidious—GHG regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.”

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who last year sponsored the ill-fated American Power Act in the Senate, issued a statement saying that Barrasso’s proposal to limit the EPA’s power would “put the public health at risk and encourage the outsourcing of American jobs.”

As previous reports have shown, Kerry’s American Power Act would have created as many as 200,000 new jobs. A similar bill that passed the then-Democratic controlled House of Representatives in 2009 was projected to create as many as 1.9 million jobs, showing that the “job killer” mantra that the GOP has placed on emission controls rings hollow.

But don’t expect the facts to get in the way of Barrasso’s crusade against the EPA. Barrasso is in a very powerful position in Washington, serving on both the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the House Committee on Environment and Public Works. His role on these committees makes him a major threat to climate progress. As On The Issues has reported, Barrasso has consistently voted in favor of expanding fossil fuel development and exploration, while voting against almost every major piece of progressive environmental legislation that has come before him. According to his 2008 campaign website:

“Every bit of energy we produce here at home decreases the need for us to look overseas to supply our critical energy needs. I believe in smart, balanced energy policy that recognizes the importance of domestic energy production and reducing our reliance on foreign oil, as well as protecting our natural environment. With smart policy choices and wise investment, Wyoming will continue to be a world leader in coal production, natural gas, and other renewable energy sources.”

Barrasso has also voted against providing tax incentives for companies that practice energy conservation and the production of renewable energy sources – specifically hydroelectric power. He also voted in the past to open up the outer continental shelf for oil and gas drilling. His voting record and legislative priorities should come as no surprise given his extensive financial support from coal, oil, gas, and electric utilities.

Even if his current legislation fails, it would be wise to keep an eye on Barrasso in the coming months. I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more from him.