A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Sept. 13 approved two bills by voice vote that would delay the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to strengthen air pollutant standards for cement kilns and industrial and commercial boilers.
Approval of the bills by the Subcommittee on Energy and Power sends them to the full committee, which is expected to mark up the measures in coming weeks. House Republican leaders plan to bring the bills to the House floor the week of Oct. 3.
The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (H.R. 2250), introduced by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), would bar EPA from issuing final emissions standards for industrial boilers, process heaters, and incinerators for 15 months after passage of the measure, and would delay the compliance deadline for five years after the effective date of the final rule.
The Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (H.R. 2681), introduced by Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.), would require EPA to revamp a series of regulations covering hazardous air pollutants and other byproducts of cement production to make them less burdensome, and would delay the compliance deadline for at least five years after the effective date in the final rule (168 DEN A-11, 8/30/11).
The proposals to delay the EPA rules are part of a broader effort largely led by House Republicans to roll back environmental regulations they view as overly burdensome and damaging to the economy.
Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said the bills will help “restore the balance” between environmental protection and economic development.
But the energy committee's top Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), said the measures were the latest “assault” by House Republicans on environmental protections that would lead to increased cancer rates and birth defects from mercury, arsenic, and other air pollutants that would be reduced under the EPA regulations.
Waxman said committee Republicans rejected his request a day before the subcommittee markup to work out a compromise. “The response was, in effect, ‘we have the votes and don't need to negotiate,’ ” Waxman said.
“You may have the votes in the House” to pass both bills, Waxman said. “But that doesn't justify a legislative approach that ignores the facts and jeopardizes public health.”
Whitfield said Democrats were exaggerating the impact of the bills on EPA rules. “This legislation is not radical and certainly is reasonable,” he said, noting that the measures would delay regulations but still allow them to go forward.
Democrats offered few amendments to the bills at the subcommittee markup, and all were rejected by voice vote.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was rebuffed on his amendment to the cement bill (H.R. 2681)—the lone amendment offered—which sought to clarify that the legislation would not “supersede” EPA's authority to regulate air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
A similar Rush amendment to the boiler measure (H.R. 2250) also was voted down, as was an amendment offered by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) that would have set an April 13, 2012, deadline for EPA to finalize the boiler rules.
EPA in March published its boiler regulations, which would set maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards and other standards for air toxics emissions from boilers and incinerators (175 DEN A-8, 9/9/11).
EPA issued its cement kiln pollutant regulations in August 2010 to require major-source cement and smaller area-source kilns to control emissions of mercury, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter (144 DEN A-3, 7/27/11).
The EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250) is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.2250:.
The Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (H.R. 2681) is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.2681:.