WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bill to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas rules passed a first step in the Republican-led House of Representatives on Thursday.
The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee passed the bill by voice vote that would block the EPA from regulating big carbon dioxide polluters such as oil refineries and power plants. The measure will next be sent to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.
It faces an uphill battle as officials in the Obama administration have said the president would veto the measure.
Fred Upton, the chairman of the committee and the bill’s sponsor, said the EPA rules would raise gasoline prices by adding costs to refineries that they would pass to consumers.
“This committee is working hard to ease the economic pains of rising gas prices. This bill is the first step,” Upton said.
Democrats on the panel said Upton’s gasoline price rise scenario was based on a two-year old study of the failed climate bill, not the EPA regulations.
“Just because it’s politically convenient to evoke peoples’ fears over rising gasoline prices doesn’t mean it’s responsible to pull out a study from over two years ago on an entirely different proposal,” said Representative Mike Doyle, who opposed the bill.
The Senate has a similar bill sponsored by climate skeptic Senator James Inhofe, a Republican. He hopes to pick up Democratic senators from states with heavily energy-dependent economies up for re-election next year. At least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, from West Virginia, has signed on.
But several Democrats in the Senate blasted the bill. “I will do everything in my power to stop attacks on the Clean Air Act that threaten the health of our families,” said Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Environmentalists also opposed the legislation. “This bill ignores the vast body of scientific evidence that carbon emissions are leading to climate change and harming public health,” said Lexi Shultz, legislative director of climate and energy at Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act if it found they endangered human health, which the agency did later.
In January the EPA began requiring large polluters to carry permits to emit greenhouse gases. It plans to propose standards that would limit emissions from power plants and oil refineries later in the year.
The EPA said the bill would prevent it from directing investment to clean energy upgrades that create jobs and provide companies with certainty about regulations. It would also stop its efforts to use the Clean Air Act to protect “Americans from harmful air pollution that, until now, has not been subject to any pollution standards,” it said.
Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Sofina Mirza-Reid