Lisa Murkowski

Post image for Gina McCarthy’s Responses to Sen. Vitter’s Questions Part II: Fuel Economy*

Gina McCarthy — President Obama’s nominee to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA Administrator — is often described as “straight shooter” and “honest broker.” Is that reputation deserved?

Last week, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) released a 123 page document containing McCarthy’s responses to hundreds of questions on a wide range of issues. Part 1 of this series examined McCarthy’s responses to Vitter’s questions about the agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources. The key points were:

  1. McCarthy and the Air Office over which she presides gave Congress and the electric power sector false assurances that the EPA would not require utilities planning to build new coal-fired power plants to “fuel switch” and build natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants instead.
  2. Such misinformation undercut the credibility of critics who warned that the EPA, if left to its own devices, would use greenhouse gas regulation to prohibit the construction of new coal electric generation.
  3. The EPA’s dissembling on fuel switching may have swayed votes against measures sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2010 and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in 2011 to reclaim Congress’s authority to determine climate policy.

Agencies are not supposed to provide false or misleading information to influence how Members of Congress vote. Banning new coal generation — the inexorable effect of the EPA’s ‘Carbon Pollution’ Rule – is a policy Congress would reject if proposed as legislation.

Part 1 concluded that confirming McCarthy as Administrator would reward the EPA’s duplicitous pursuit of an agenda Congress has not authorized. Breaking news of the EPA’s grossly unequal treatment of groups seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — based on whether the groups support or oppose a bigger, more intrusive EPA — leaves no doubt that this out-of-control agency deserves a kick in the butt, not a pat on the back.

Even the Society of Environmental Journalists – hardly a hotbed of libertarians, conservative Republicans, or fossil-fuel industry lobbyists — recently complained that the Obama administration “has been anything but transparent in its dealings with reporters seeking information, interviews and clarification” on environmental, health, and public lands issues, and that, ”The EPA is one of the most closed, opaque agencies to the press.”

Today’s post examines McCarthy’s responses to Vitter’s questions about the administration’s motor vehicle mandates. As in Part 1, I begin with an overview of the issues and political back story. For more detailed analyses, see the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee report, A Dismissal of Safety, Choice, and Cost: The Obama Administration’s New Auto Regulations, and my article, EPA Regulation of Fuel Economy: Congressional Intent or Climate Coup? [click to continue…]

Post image for Why Courts Should Repeal EPA’s ‘Carbon Pollution’ Standard (and why you should care)

Note: A nearly identical version of this column appeared last week in Forbes Online. I am reposting it here with many additional hyperlinks so that readers may more easily access the evidence supporting my conclusions.

The November 2012 elections ensure that President Obama’s war on coal will continue for at least two more years. The administration’s preferred M.O. has been for the EPA to ‘enact’ anti-coal policies that Congress would reject if such measures were introduced as legislation and put to a vote. Had Gov. Romney won the presidential race and the GOP gained control of the Senate, affordable energy advocates could now go on offense and pursue a legislative strategy to roll back various EPA global warming regulations, air pollution regulations, and restrictions on mountaintop mining. But Romney lost and Democrats gained two Senate seats.

Consequently, defenders of free-market energy are stuck playing defense and their main weapon now is litigation. This is a hard slog because courts usually defer to agency interpretations of the statutes they administer. But sometimes petitioners win. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), a regulation chiefly targeting coal-fired power plants. The Court found that the CSAPR exceeded the agency’s statutory authority. Similarly, in March, the Court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority when it revoked a Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in Logan County, West Virginia.

A key litigation target in 2013 is EPA’s proposal to establish greenhouse gas (GHG) “new source performance standards” (NSPS) for power plants. This so-called carbon pollution standard is not based on policy-neutral health or scientific criteria. Rather, the EPA contrived the standard so that commercially-viable coal plants cannot meet it. The rule effectively bans investment in new coal generation.

We Can Win This One

Prospects for overturning the rule are good for three main reasons. [click to continue…]

If Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the House, or Sens.  Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Harry Reed (D-Nev.) in the Senate, were to introduce legislation authorizing EPA to use the Clean Air Act (CAA) as it sees fit to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs), would the bill have any chance of passing in either chamber of Congress?

No. Aside from a few diehard global warming zealots, hardly any Member of Congress would vote for such a bill. Most lawmakers would run from such legislation even faster than the Senate last year ditched cap-and-trade after its outing as a hidden tax on energy. 

Now consider what that implies. If even today, after nearly two decades of global warming advocacy by the United Nations, eco-pressure groups, ’progressive’ politicians, left-leaning media, corporate rent-seekers, and celebrity activists, Congress would not pass a bill authorizing EPA to regulate GHGs, then isn’t it patently ridiculous for EPA and its apologists to claim that when Congress enacted the CAA in 1970 — years before global warming was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye — it gave EPA that very power?

These simple questions cut through the fog of sophistry emitted by the likes of Waxman, Markey, and Boxer to defend EPA’s hijacking of legislative power. As I have explained elsewhere in detail (here, herehere, and here), EPA, under the aegis of the Supreme Court’s poorly-reasoned, agenda-driven decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, is using the CAA in ways Congress never intended and never subsequently approved. EPA is defying the separation of powers. It should be stopped. [click to continue…]

Post image for Hitting EPA’s Pause Button – What Are the Benefits, Risks? (Updated)

Yesterday (Feb. 16), House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) engaged in a colloquy with Interior and Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) on Sec. 1746 of H.R. 1, the One-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011.

Sec. 1746 of H.R. 1 states:

None of the funds made available to the Environmental Protection Agency by this division or any other Act may be expended for purposes of enforcing or promulgating any regulation (other than with respect to section 202 of the Clean Air Act) or order, taking action relating to, or denying approval of state implementation plans or permits because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.

Sec. 1746 would block EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which ends on September 30. “The funding limitation will allow Congress to carefully and thoroughly debate a permanent clarification to the Clean Air Act to ensure it remains a strong tool for protecting public health by regulating and mitigating air pollutants, and that it is not transformed into a vehicle to impose a national energy tax,” explains Chairman Whitfield’s press release. Whitfield is a co-sponsor of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would overturn the legal force and effect of EPA’s Endangerment Rule, Tailoring Rule, and other rules imposing greenhouse gas permitting requirements on state governments and stationary sources.

In the colloquy, Chairman Simpson states: ”EPA’s GHG regulations need to be stopped in their tracks, and that’s what section 1746 does – it provides a timeout for the balance of the fiscal year, during which time EPA will be prohibited from acting on them or enforcing them.” In Whitfield’s words: “This CR [Continuing Resolution] provision is Congress hitting the pause button during the very brief period of the CR, allowing time to go through regular order and pass the Upton-Inhofe bill.”

[click to continue…]

There’s only a month left on the Senate calendar, and elections are looming, so many Senators are wary of an issue as divisive and nuanced as is cap-and-trade energy rationing. As a result, there’s been a lot of procrastinating.

Two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid convened a meeting of Senate Committee chairs in order to figure out how to proceed with climate legislation. They agreed to punt, by having a meeting of the entire Senate the following week.

A week ago, all Democratic Senators met, and they listened to three of their colleagues pitch variations of climate/energy legislation, as well as a pep talk from Sen. Barbara Boxer (my favorite environmentalist Senator). But the pleas fell on deaf ears, and the DNP Caucus session ended inconclusively.

Following that failure, President Obama requested yet another meeting of Senate energy/climate principles and moderates from both parties. The discussion will take place today, and the guest list includes Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, Susan Collins, Sherrod Brown and Lisa Murkowski, according to a survey of offices by Energy & Environment Daily.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and elections are nearing. The punditry seems to be in consensus that the prognosis for cap-and-trade is dire, although there has been some discussion about a sinister back door strategy, by which the Senate would pass bare-bones energy bill, sans an energy tax, and then leadership would insert a cap-and-trade into the bill that is reconciled with the American Energy and Security Act, the climate legislation that the House passed last June. Evidently, proponents of this strategy are banking on the reconciliation conference to take place during the lame duck session after upcoming elections, a time when some Members of Congress would have nothing to lose, because they would have already lost.

**Update: 8:20 A.M. E&E Daily’s lede story this morning reports that President Obama has postponed the climate meeting, due to the ongoing imbroglio over the Afghan general who put his foot in his mouth. Fortunately, there’s not much further down the road the majority can kick this can, before the clock runs out on the legislative calendar.