WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With congressional action on climate legislation in doubt, two House committee chairmen have filed a bill to block the government from regulating greenhouse gases under its own power.
The lawmakers say Congress, not “unelected bureaucrats,” should set environmental policy. Congress has squabbled for months over a comprehensive climate change bill. Some members say the best bet is to encourage renewable energy production.
The Environmental Protection Agency cleared the way for regulation under air pollution laws a month ago, when it ruled that greenhouse gases endanger human health. EPA could act as early as March to offer regulations.
Efforts were being made in both chambers of Congress to derail EPA regulation. It normally takes months for Congress to agree on legislation.
Besides blocking EPA regulation of six gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, blamed for global warming, the House bill, which was filed on Tuesday, would remove two roadblocks to greater use of biofuels.
The bill, which would face a tough fight in Congress and be opposed by the president, would adopt a broad definition of biomass — including crops, trees, algae and manure — that can be used in making renewable fuels.
It also would bar EPA, when it calculates if biofuels are cleaner than petroleum, from holding U.S. fuels responsible for forest clearing and cropland expansion overseas.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, the lead sponsor, said the House bill “gets EPA under control” and strengthens American-made renewable fuels.
“I have no confidence that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without doing serious damage to our economy,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson. Peterson and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson are cosponsors.
Critics say federal attempts to constrain emissions of greenhouse gases will result in higher petroleum prices and retard U.S. growth.
An administration analysis says 6 percent of U.S. crop and pastureland would be converted to woodlands, resulting in slightly higher food prices, under the House-passed climate bill.
At least one other bill, also with three sponsors, was pending in the House to block EPA regulation of carbon dioxide.
In the Senate, Lisa Murkowski spearheaded a resolution to block EPA regulation. She is supported by at least 39 of the 100 senators.
“We are continuing to work on our votes,” Murkowski said on Tuesday. Asked when she might ask for a vote, Murkowski said, “Somewhere between now and the next couple months.”
Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Walter Bagley