April 14, 2009

EPA Threat Seen Aiding Cap-And-Trade Legislation

Representative Edward Markey said Monday that the threat of tighter regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should subdue industry opposition to a cap-and-trade market on greenhouse gas emissions.

Markey (D-MA), who serves as chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is co-sponsor of a bill that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked with global climate change.  He said the agency's authority to act should entice industrial lobbyists to work with Congress on the matter.

"Now you have a choice ... Do you want the EPA to make the decision or would you like your congressman or senator to be in the room and drafting legislation? So we think this is a very helpful development that focuses the mind," a Reuters report quoted Markey as saying during a meeting on clean energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Markey and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced a bill in March that would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 percent through 2020.  

The Waxman-Markey bill seeks to achieve the target through a "cap-and-trade" system that would limit the amount of CO2 industrial users and power plants could emit. Those who cut emissions below their allotments would be permitted to sell their unused credits.

In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA would have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, if it found that human health could be endangered by global warming pollution.  And last month, the EPA found that greenhouse gases do indeed present a risk to human health.
But Carol Browner, an advisor to president Obama on energy and climate change, said the administration prefers that Congress handle the issue.

"It is the strong preference of the administration that we secure legislation," Browner said at the forum, according to a Reuters report.

"There are things that can be done with legislation that won't quite work within the existing law."

For example, Congress can take a more comprehensive view in creating any new legislation, including consideration of the economic impact of its actions on businesses and consumers.

"If Congress doesn't act, then clearly there is a residual authority now granted by the Supreme Court of the United States to the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases," Markey said.

"The only way to avoid that is to have Congress act."

That should persuade businesses not to resist the proposed legislation, about which Markey plans to start committee hearings next week.

"It becomes a real factor," Markey said.

"Industries across the country will just have to gauge for themselves how lucky they feel if they kill legislation in terms of how the EPA process will include them."


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