EPA Challenged in Congress Over Its Climate Change Proposals

June 21, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
EPA Challenged in Congress Over Its Climate Change Proposals
Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas

WASHINGTON — Some members of Congress predicted Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency is headed into a losing battle over what they described as the agency’s overreach with proposed clean air regulations.

A House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee held a hearing to review whether the EPA needed to be restrained in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and power plants.

“EPA does not seem to understand its regulatory purview,” said Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy and Regulatory Affairs.

In one set of regulations, the EPA set a timetable in April for cutting vehicle emissions by 56% below levels set for 2026. To reach the goal, EPA estimates 60% of new vehicles would need to be electric by 2030 and 67% by 2032.

A second set of proposed regulations would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. They would force many of the coal-fired power plants that now provide 60% of U.S. electricity to be replaced by nuclear, solar and wind energy.

Both sets of rules are in public comment periods before the EPA finalizes them. Automobile and power plant industry groups are threatening legal action to stop them.

The EPA says it is acting under its authority from the 1970 Clean Air Act, which authorizes the agency to set air-quality standards to protect public health and the environment.

Some Republicans say the EPA is encroaching into the authority of Congress to make federal laws, rather than limiting itself to regulations intended to implement the laws.

“The EPA does not appear to care about law,” Fallon said.

The Biden administration — with support of environmentalists — is refusing to back down on its climate agenda as the predictions from scientists about global warming become more menacing.

The latest warning came this week from researchers at the British Antarctic Survey who said Antarctic Ocean ice is melting at a pace never seen before. If the trend continues in the Antarctic, Arctic and in glaciers worldwide, rising sea levels will flood many large cities by the end of this century and earth will lose some of its ability to cool itself, according to scientists.

Similar warnings of catastrophe prompted a top EPA official and Democrats on the Economic Growth, Energy Policy and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee to defend the agency’s aggressive regulations.

“If finalized, these proposals would mark a significant step towards improving air quality, protecting people’s health, and addressing the climate crisis,” Joseph Goffman, an EPA principal deputy assistant administrator, told the subcommittee.

He responded to inquiries from lawmakers about the high costs of switching from internal combustion engines and coal-fired power plants by saying the long-term benefits outweigh the expense.

New internal combustion engine automobiles this year average $45,000, compared with more than $61,000 for electric vehicles.

“The proposed standards would also deliver significant economic benefits, including lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” Goffman said. “The proposed light-duty vehicle standards would on average save consumers $12,000 over the lifetime of a vehicle, and together, these proposals would strengthen American energy security by reducing 20 billion barrels of imported oil from 2027 through 2055.”

The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law create incentives for a domestic electric vehicle industry, rather than relying on China for critical minerals to make the rechargeable batteries, he said.

Democrats generally defended the EPA for taking strong action at a time climate change leaves no better alternatives.

“Pollution is nonpartisan,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo.

Despite its intentions of reducing climate change, the EPA faces tough potential challenges in the Supreme Court, where it has lost two major cases on its regulatory authority in the past year.

Last month, the Supreme Court imposed limits on the EPA’s authority to regulate wetlands on private property. Last June, the Supreme Court put other limits on EPA’s ability to force coal-powered and gas-fired electrical generators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Industry groups, such as the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, are showing the EPA faces additional opposition from them.

The trade group — which represents major automakers like General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV — warned in May they might not meet the EPA’s targets for producing electric vehicles because of supply chain problems for rechargeable batteries and chargers as well as consumer resistance.

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