House Republicans Fight EPA Bureaucracy With ... Bureaucracy

The Energy Consumers Relief Act would add congressional oversight to the environmental agency's regulating power.

Sunflower Electric Cooperative's coal-fired power plant churns out electricity Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007 in Holcomb, Kan. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed a bill allowing two additional coal-fired power plants at the location. (National Journal)

If the Environmental Protection Agency wants to lay down more red tape, it will have to go through red tape to do so. That's the premise of a bill that passed the House on Thursday by a 232-181 vote. The Energy Consumers Relief Act would require congressional oversight for any new EPA regulation with an economic impact greater than $1 billion. In addition, the bill — which was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — would give the secretary of Energy the ability to block any EPA regulation deemed harmful to the economy. The bill is unlikely to be taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Also included in the bill was an amendment from Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., that prevents EPA from using the "social cost of carbon" to justify its regulations. That amendment in particular drew the ire of House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who called it "magical thinking" from the "flat earth society" that reflects "science denial at its worst."

Waxman put forth his own amendment to block the Energy Department oversight portion of the bill, but that was shot down by the Republican majority. Another rejected amendment — this one from Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va. — would have exempted air- and water-quality rules from the economic test.

Republicans made the argument that the bill frees businesses from an out-of-control bureaucracy that's stifling the economy. "If you're pro-jobs, pro-growth, and antipoverty, you should support [the Energy Consumers Relief Act]," Cassidy said. The bill's consequences, Democrats shot back, will render EPA toothless to fight pollution as the nation's energy demands change rapidly.