WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers introducing legislation to stop the federal government from regulating emissions blamed for global warming may have a stronger bargaining position now that President Barack Obama wants to pass a clean-energy plan.
Republicans Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senator James Inhofe readied draft legislation Wednesday that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The bill “is a narrowly drawn, targeted solution” that would prevent the main federal air pollution law, the Clean Air Act, from being used as a vehicle to regulate emissions, a congressional aide said.
A fellow Republican, Senator John Barrasso, introduced a more wide-ranging bill Monday that would also stop the EPA from regulating the gases.
In addition, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, reintroduced legislation Monday that would delay the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases for two years.
Obama officials have repeatedly said since last year that the president would veto any legislation seeking to clamp down on the EPA.
But analysts said the administration may look to compromise with lawmakers after Obama introduced a Clean Energy Standard in his State of the Union address last month.
Obama wants power plants to produce 80 percent of their electricity from clean sources including natural gas, nuclear, “clean coal” and renewables such as wind and solar power.
“If the Obama administration wants to get legislation done this year on energy that would support his clean-energy goals, one of the things he is going to have to consider compromising on is the EPA and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Whitney Stanco, an energy policy analyst at MF Global.
Christine Tezak, an energy analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co, said: “It’s absolutely possible that Obama would trade at least a delay on the greenhouse gas regulations to get him to the road to getting a CES done.”
While stopping the EPA has become the focus of many Republicans, particularly after they won control of the House of Representatives in last year’s elections, some Democrats also want to stop the agency.
Several Democrats in the Senate from states whose economies depend heavily on fossil fuels, such as Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin and Ben Nelson, are also sponsoring Rockefeller’s bill.
Those senators are up for reelection in 2012 and the tough economy could push Democrats to support a delay in EPA rules. Many companies that own factories and power plants say the EPA regulation hurts the economy.
Nick Loris, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said Obama had already compromised on the Clean Energy Standard by including nuclear power and “clean coal” — which could be a signal that the president will seek at least some horse trading.
The EPA has already started to regulate greenhouse gases. In January it began requiring big polluters, such as coal-fired power plants and oil refineries, to obtain permits to emit carbon dioxide, just as they do for pollutants including emissions that cause smog and acid rain.
Next, the EPA plans to begin laying down so-called performance standards, or limits on the amount of carbon dioxide that big power plants and factories pollute. It expects to finalize those rules next year.
Editing by Dale Hudson