Blocking EPA Authority Would Send Clean-Energy Dollars Overseas

Written by Eric Haxthausen on . Posted in Learn, The Wonk Room

This blog was originally published by the National Journal.

As the clock ticks down to 11:59 on Friday night, all eyes are on the budget negotiations taking place among the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader and the President. Senate Majority Leader Reid indicated Thursday morning that anti-environmental riders blocking EPA’s ability to set and enforce Clean Air standards are among the remaining issues to be addressed.

This development came one day after the Senate voted to reject a series of amendments to a small business bill that would have constrained EPA’s authority. The White House followed up on the Senate votes with a statement saying it was “encouraged” by the Senate’s defense of EPA’s ability to protect public health, and noting that “the Senate also rejected an approach that would have increased the nation’s dependence on oil, contradicted the scientific consensus on global warming, and jeopardized America’s ability to lead the world in the clean energy economy.”

The White House statement appeared timed to signal that the Obama Administration will not accept budget riders in the continuing resolution that they are negotiating with the House and Senate to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The administration is right to reject these riders, as is Senator Reid.

In the first place, as major attempts to rewrite policy, such riders have no place on a funding bill. And although the House voted Thursday afternoon to approve a sweeping bill that would block EPA from exercising its authority under the Clean Air Act to set air pollution standards to protect public health, the Senate’s rejection on Wednesday of a nearly identical amendment is evidence that there is not sufficient support in the “upper body” for passing such far-reaching legislation through regular order.

Efforts to disable the Environmental Protection Agency would roll the clock back on forty years of using the bipartisan Clean Air Act to protect public health. The science is clear that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment through their contribution to climate change and ocean acidification, and in turn through reduced urban air quality and water availability. Absent a comprehensive policy solution to limit greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that the U.S. continue to deploy all of its existing tools to address this systemic challenge.

Stopping EPA from taking action would send a terrible signal to the rest of the world, signaling that the U.S. is backpedaling on climate change, even as ChinaBrazil and other countries are speeding ahead. This will adversely affect not only the United States’ standing in the world, but our economy. Investors are increasingly sending clean energy investment dollars to other countriesjudging that the U.S. is not serious about clean energy and addressing climate change. Blocking EPA’s authority will not help.

Reports this morning suggest EPA riders may be out of the negotiations over the continuing resolution. We can only hope that is correct.

Eric Haxthausen is director of U.S. climate policy at The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Flickr user BC Gov Photos, used under a Creative Commons license

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