EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulation - Power Grab or Public Safety?

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Republicans lawmakers are split on whether oil and other greenhouse gas emitting energy sources are causing climate change.

But there is one place they agree – the EPA should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases. That, they say, is the job of Congress.

More than a dozen Republican lawmakers, from climate change doubter Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma to concerned believer Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, gathered in Washington Tuesday to warn against the EPA regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Senators will vote Thursday on whether to strip the EPA of its regulation power under the Clean Air Act.

“The only issue is whether an unelected group of bureaucrats or the United States Congress should decide what to do about carbon,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “We believe that is our job because we will put at the front of our considerations taking action in a way that will help create more American jobs, not run jobs overseas looking for cheap energy.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is spearheading the effort against the EPA, which she said “intends to take control of climate policy, take it away from the Congress.”

The problem for supporters of the EPA’s authority, bestowed through the Clean Air Act, is that Congress – in particular the Senate - has trouble getting any legislation passed. Current Democratic proposals to cut down on oil consumption and place caps on greenhouse gases have no Republican support – Graham dropped out of bipartisan talks with Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman in April. Kerry and Lieberman released their proposal without him in May. LINK: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2010/05/kerrylieberman-climate-bill-energy-execs-environmentalists-but-no-republicans.html

But here is where climate change is different than health care or Wall Street reform – the EPA has determined that greenhouse gas emissions present a public health risk. As a result, the EPA has the administrative capability to step in where Congress fails, enacting caps on carbon emissions even if there is no agreement among lawmakers.

Here is EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s argument against the Murkowski proposal, published online at Huffington post. LINK: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-p-jackson/the-murkowski-resolution_b_602793.html

“At no point in our history has any problem been solved by waiting another year to act or burying our heads in the sand. Our oil addiction is not going to go away unless we act,” says Jackson in her argument, pointing to the oil spill. “A broad coalition of industry, government and environmental advocates believe that it can be done -- and we have a plan in motion.”

Republicans dismissed the direct link between the oil spill and climate change legislation today. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said that tying the oil spill to energy policy is a “bait and switch political move.”

“All of a sudden, somehow, there is some connection between the EPA and the oil spill. There is an attempt to turn the attention of the American people away from what's happening with respect to the oil spill and saying what we really should be doing to protect the environment is give all of this new power to the EPA,” said Bennett. “This is a bait-and-switch political move. It is not a demonstration of anything that makes any scientific sense. It doesn't make any administrative sense.”

The Republicans argued that oil will have to get Americans through a transition to more sustainable energy sources.

“The bridge to that promised land of complete renewable energy is built out of fossil fuel,” said Bennett.

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