Senator Challenges Clean Air Act

Senator Barrasso would like to walk all these environmental regulations back a bit, please

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Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, along with seven Senate peers, introduced legislation Monday that would curtail the reach of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The bill's supporters say the Environmental Protection Agency has used legislation such as the 1970 Clean Air Act for a power grab and is exercising authority it doesn't have. But the heart of the issue, apparently, is not that the EPA has overstepped its mandate, but that limiting greenhouse gasses hurts businesses. The bill wants to overturn limits on seven controlled emissions, including nitrous oxide, sulfur hexaflouride and hydroflourocarbons and wants to prevent global warming from being considered a legitimate reason to limit emissions.

Barrasso says Americans don't want this level of government interference: "Americans rejected cap and trade because they know it means higher energy prices and lost jobs," he says, "Washington agencies are now trying a backdoor approach to regulate our climate by abusing existing laws."

Barrasso and his co-sponsors are not alone in wanting to scale back or eliminate limits on green house gasses--the National Association of Manufacturers, for one, has his back. In the trade association's blog, Shopfloor, the organization came to Barasso's side, saying
Manufacturers are faced with tremendous uncertainty as the EPA and state permitting authorities begin the implementation process of regulating GHG emissions from stationary sources. Sen. Barrasso’s broad-reaching legislation is needed to stem the tide of the EPA overreach give our nation’s job creators the assurance they need to expand their businesses and put Americans back to work.

However, Barrasso's bill is not without its critics, some of whom see larger things lurking behind this proposal. Here are the main objections:
  • Barrasso Is Denying Science  Part of the horror, Mother Jones's Kate Sheppard says, is that Barrasso, a medical doctor, is drafting legislation that does everything but protect an individual's health. "The EPA's decision to act on emissions under the Clean Air Act is based on the 2007 Supreme Court directive and the finding that greenhouse endanger human health. Barrasso says though, that he only wants regulations for greenhouse gases that pose a 'direct threat to human health because of direct exposure to that gas'--implying, of course, that he doesn't think that most of them actually pose a threat."
  • This Is Corporate Kow-Towing  Earth Justice's legislative representative Stephanie Maddin says Monday's legislation is a clear sign that companies are influencing policy. "Sen. Barrasso has now become the lead voice in the Senate for the nation's biggest polluters, who continue to try to get out of cleaning up their health-threatening air pollution," she says.

Amid the uproar, National Journal's Amy Harder points out that no matter how angry the bill may make senators or activists it won't be easily dismissed because "By narrowly focusing on the carbon regulations, they will make it harder for Democrats and President Obama to not negotiate."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.