Rep. Blackburn (TN) leads the charge to undermine the Clean Air Act

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | January 6, 2011 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

As the swearing-in ceremonies for the 112th Congress were wrapping up on Capitol Hill yesterday, Tennessee’s Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a long-time foe of clean air and energy laws, was already re-introducing legislation that attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing their new standards to regulate greenhouse gases from major emitters.

Blackburn’s bill (H.R. 97) would amend the seminal Clean Air Act (CAA) by declaring that greenhouse gases are not subject to the law, despite court rulings to the contrary.  Her new bill – reminiscent of a similar measure she introduced in 2009 with Rep. Jerry Moran of Kansas (H.J. Res. 66) – is just one of what will likely be multiple attempts to restrict Clean Air Act authority.  On January 5, Rep. Ted Poe of Texas  introduced H.R. 153, to mandate funding cuts for the Clean Air Act. The next day, Rep. John Carter of Texas, introduced a disapproval resolution (H.J. Res. 7) regarding EPA regulations and Rep. Shelly Capito of West Virgina introduced another (H.R. 199).

Far from being a “backdoor power grab” by the Obama Administration, the EPA is actually legally obligated, by both the Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, to regulate pollutants that would endanger public health.

A 2007 Supreme Court Ruling, Massachusetts vs. EPA, found that greenhouse gases fit within the law’s broad definition of air pollutants and directed the agency to determine whether these specific pollutants endanger public health. The resulting 2009 endangerment findings confirmed that, in fact, greenhouse gases do pose a risk to public health and began the process of crafting new standards to regulate these pollutants.  Almost four years after the Supreme Court ruling, the first of these new standards, known as the Tailoring Rule, goes into effect this year (read more about these new standards in our detailed blogpost).

While it remains to be seen exactly how the new Congress will address climate policy and these new EPA regulations, this quick effort by Blackburn to undermine EPA’s authority suggests that blocking climate rules may be the name of the game in the 112th Congress.  But make no mistake: those who support this bill and others like it are clearly declaring their support for polluters over public health.  Therefore, it is essential that we oppose any and all efforts by Congress to block or delay the EPA’s ability to protect public health.

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