After scoring major victories in last week’s Congressional midterms, Republicans are gearing up for an all-out assault on the Environmental Protection Agency.
Perhaps no senator has been as explicit about this goal as Mitch McConnell, the presumptive Senate Majority Leader come January. Hailing from Kentucky, the third-largest coal-producing state in the nation, last week McConnell told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his top priority is “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”
The Senator says he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop the federal agency from reducing America’s carbon emissions by 30 percent, a proposal put forth by the EPA and President Obama in June. The proposal would affect some 600 coal-fired plants across the country and would likely force some to close. “It makes me very angry,” McConnell told the paper, “and I’m going to do everything I can to try to stop them.”
McConnell will have plenty of support from the new Republican majority. Senator Jim Inhofe will likely retake his position as Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which he previously held between 2003 and 2007. In case you missed Planet Experts’ “Portrait of a Serial Science-Denier,” here are some quick facts about Sen. Inhofe: he believes global warming is the “second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state”; he has compared the EPA to the Nazi gestapo; he has accused the President of social engineering and forcing Americans to live out his “counterproductive green dream”; he believes that man-made climate change is impossible because it contradicts the Bible; but even if global warming is real, it might be to humanity’s benefit.
Remember, this is the man who will be leading the Senate’s environmental policy in the immediate future.
The GOP’s midterm victory has been hailed by the party as a mandate to torpedo the EPA’s progressive policies under President Obama. This may include unraveling recent regulations on mercury and other airborne pollutants from power plants, limits on smog-inducing ozone, mountaintop mining restrictions and the EPA’s redefined jurisdiction over streams and ponds.
Bear in mind, many of these issues have been linked to severe health hazards in recent scientific reports: Dust from mountaintop removal coal mining may promote the growth of cancerous lung tumors, the deaths of 670,000 people in 2012 were due to smog-related illnesses (smog is also a prime factor in the degradation of over 40 percent of Chinese farmland); also, because the EPA has redefined its jurisdiction over streams and ponds, it can force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to disclose how much pollution its dams have been leaking into local waters – something it was unable to do before – and regulate toxic runoff on agricultural lands.
These will be battles fought in the coming years as part of a larger campaign against President Obama and the EPA, especially what Republicans and the fossil fuel industry have frequently referred to as the President’s “War on Coal.”
One senior Republican aide told The Hill that Republicans will use all their available legislative tools to roll back EPA regulations.
“It’ll be a combined effort of using the appropriations process and the legislative process and the oversight process to put pressure on the administration prior to finalization,” the aide said. “And then, once they’re final, if they’re still onerous and job-killing and harmful to the economy, then we’ll fight them there as well.”
“I think it’s going to be a full-on attack, especially because a lot of the rules that have either been introduced or recently promulgated are going to come with extreme costs and very minimal environmental benefits,” said Nick Loris, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Republicans can carry out their attack in several ways. They could use the Congressional Review Act to freeze new environmental rules, and with their majority block Democrats from filibustering the decision. They could launch an investigation into the EPA, which would draw out the implementation of new EPA rules.
ThinkProgress notes that Republicans could also attach riders to federal appropriations bills that defund the EPA’s power plant rules. This however, “would essentially set up a game of chicken between the President and the Republicans, with the EPA regulation as the stakes and a government shutdown as the consequence if neither side caves.”
On Sunday, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), told Fox News that she will be “extremely aggressive” in her fight against the EPA.
“The president’s policies are disenfranchising my part of the country,” she said. “We’ve been picked as a loser, and I’m not going to stand for it. Rolling back the EPA regulations is the way to do it.”
David Goldston, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s top lobbyist, told The Hill that this tactic would be ineffective against Obama. “The president has made clear that he will not be cowed by an appropriations strategy, by people trying to load up spending bills with provisions that the public doesn’t support and so we would expect that to be the case again,” he said.