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House Committee to Investigate Science Behind EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

By Ari Natter  

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The House Energy and Commerce Committee will investigate whether efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are “scientifically well grounded” and will continue to review the economic impacts of other rulemakings brought forward by the agency under the Clean Air Act, according to an oversight plan released by the committee.

The seven-page plan, which lists areas in which the committee is expected to conduct oversight activities over the next two years, indicates that Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the committee chairman, and other Republican members plan to continue efforts to block or delay environmental regulations proposed by the Obama administration in the 113th Congress.

The document, which is required under House rules, was made public Feb. 1 and is scheduled to be brought up for a vote by the full committee Feb. 6. If approved by the panel, the plan will be submitted to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and to the Committee on House Administration by Feb. 15, according to a staff memo.

According to the plan, Energy and Commerce plans to review EPA's use of the endangerment finding in December 2009 to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and “will consider whether such agreements and regulatory efforts are scientifically well grounded.”

EPA's endangerment finding stated that greenhouse gases endanger public health and the environment and should be regulated. Following that finding, the agency developed rules to regulate emissions from vehicles in the years 2012 through 2025 and proposed rules for controlling emissions from new power plants. EPA also is making preparations to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants (see related story).

Changes at Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Other issues the committee plans to investigate is the Obama administration's decision not to proceed with the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, post-Fukashima nuclear power regulatory changes by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a review of how more than $84 billion in “new spending for the green energy sector” provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was spent, according to the document.

“The committee's oversight functions will focus on: 1) cutting government spending through elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse and 2) ensuring laws are adequate to protect the public interest or are being implemented in a manner that protects the public interest, without stifling economic growth,” the plan said.

Other topics of planned oversight include the impact of government regulation on domestic energy production, the effect of Energy Department and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission policies on wholesale power markets, and oversight of DOE management and operations.

In addition, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and Economy, said in January he plans to prioritize the prevention of federal regulation of fracking in natural gas and oil extraction, starting with a hearing in February on state regulations already in place or under development.