Barrasso's EPA Assault

| Mon Jan. 31, 2011 4:25 PM EST

That the vast majority of Republicans in Congress as well as some Democrats are hoping to squash the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate planet-warming gases is certainly no secret. (See here, here, here, and here for starters.) On Monday, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming introduced a new bill that would go even farther, making it impossible for the federal government to do anything about climate change under any of the nation's existing environmental laws.

Barrasso's bill, "Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act," would block federal regulations under the Clean Air Act, but also the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. In case you're keeping track, that's just about all of the most important environmental laws currently on the books.

Barrasso's bill would also take away the EPA's ability to act on auto emissions, handing that power over to the Department of Transportation. EPA was essential in the landmark deal reached on greenhouse gas emissions with automakers and states last year, a deal that has already resulted in more efficient vehicles.

From Barrasso's statement:

It's time for the Administration to face the facts: Americans rejected cap and trade because they know it means higher energy prices and lost jobs," said Barrasso. "Washington agencies are now trying a backdoor approach to regulate our climate by abusing existing laws. Congress must step in and stand up for the American people. My bill will shrink Washington’s job crushing agenda and grow America’s economy. I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn’t impose cap and trade policies in any form.

What's particularly ironic about the statement is that cap and trade was a Republican idea created as a business-friendly alternative to command-and-control regulations. Cap and trade was promoted as the legislative alternative to EPA regulations, but it never went anywhere in the Senate last year. So the idea that Congress—particularly, Barrasso and his seven cosponsors—would now start caring about the issue is humorous, at least if you have a sick sense of humor. We're in this situation because Congress did nothing for the past four years.

Even worse: Barrasso is one of the three medical doctors in the Senate, and the EPA's decision to act on emissions under the Clean Air Act is based on the 2007 Supreme Court directive and the finding that greenhouse endanger human health. Barrasso says though, that he only wants regulations for greenhouse gases that pose a "direct threat to human health because of direct exposure to that gas" –implying, of course, that he doesn't think that most of them actually pose a threat.

Republicans have, for the most part, been competing to outdo each other in cracking down on the EPA. Last week we had Newt Gingrich calling for the abolition of the EPA entirely.

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