By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 1:08 AM
Acting on a vow to fight the Obama administration on climate issues, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, unveiled draft legislation Wednesday to try to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the subcommittee on energy and power, joined Upton in issuing what they called the Energy Tax Prevention Act.
In a statement, the congressmen said the legislation's intent is to show that the Clean Air Act was not meant to address climate change, stop the EPA "from imposing a backdoor cap-and-trade tax" on industries identified as polluters, and protect American jobs.
"We firmly believe federal bureaucrats should not be unilaterally setting national climate change policy," the statement said.
The EPA issued a finding in late 2009 that said greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming endanger the public's health and welfare. Last month, the agency told industrial facilities such as power plants, oil refineries and paper mills that require permits to emit sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide to also account for greenhouse gas emissions if they expand or add construction that significantly increases greenhouse gas pollution.
Republicans, many of whom doubt climate-change science, say the regulations hurt the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete against companies in countries with relaxed standards.
The EPA has its foot "squarely on the neck of business," Upton has said. Republicans say the Obama administration is trying to use tougher EPA regulations on energy to overcome the president's failure to pass climate-change legislation.
But Democrats such as Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon strongly disagreed. "I am outraged that House Republicans are launching this attack on the most basic law that keeps our air safe to breathe," Blumenauer said Wednesday.
"House Republicans . . . have chosen to stand with the polluters. I will oppose this legislation at every turn," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).
"These efforts would halt EPA's common-sense steps under the Clean Air Act to protect Americans from harmful air pollution that, until now, has not been subject to any pollution standards," said Brendan Gilfillan, an agency spokesman.
Updating Clean Air Act standards would direct investment to clean-energy upgrades that create jobs and make U.S. companies more competitive, Gilfillan said.
In December, a federal appellate court turned down a request from utilities, oil refiners and the state of Texas to delay the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the EPA. The companies said that the EPA regulations would be too costly.
Staff writer Steven Mufson contributed to this report.