Thursday, March 22, 2012

Republican "gas price" bill would repeal heart of the Clean Air Act, reverse unanimous Supreme Court decision

I realize there has been a flurry of activity on the energy/environment front, especially with the President’s tour, but I want to make sure the following item remains on your radar:

As part of its effort to make obvious political hay over gas prices, the majority (Republican) side of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has released a “discussion draft” of gasoline price legislation that is scheduled to be the subject of a March 28 hearing.

The draft is an obvious oil industry wish list, no doubt straight from the computers of the American Petroleum Institute. It would block EPA from setting several key rules (including low-sulfur gasoline, greenhouse gas standards for refineries and a new national air standard for ozone, or smog) pending an inter-agency study dominated by agencies that historically have often been hostile to EPA and its mission.

But it is the final page I want especially flag for you:


In revising or supplementing any national primary or
secondary ambient air quality standards for ozone under
section 109 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7409), the
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
shall take into consideration feasibility and cost.

This provision is an attempt to drive a stake into the heart of the Clean Air Act. As you may recall, the Clean Air Act calls on EPA to set national air quality standards based on science alone, without regard to cost, in part so the public can know if the government is telling the truth about the air we breathe. (Cost is a big factor, of course, when it comes time to achieve those science-based standards.)

Industry groups, especially oil, have been fighting for more than 30 years to gut this part of the law because they obviously believe that would be to their advantage. Many of you will recall this issue went to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in 2001 that EPA is not permitted to consider costs when setting national air quality standards. Here is the 2001 supreme court decision

So the Republican “draft” would not only be a direct attack on the heart and lungs of the Clean Air Act, it would repeal a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss.

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