Cantor promises swift House vote on legislation to block EPA climate rules

Republicans approved legislation to block Environmental Protection Agency climate rules in a key House subcommittee Thursday, the first step in a wide-ranging GOP effort to stop the agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power subcommittee approved the bill on a party-line voice vote. There were no amendments offered to the bill.

The bill, authored by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), would permanently eliminate EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants and refineries. It also overturns a finding by EPA that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday that the EPA legislation will come to the House floor within weeks.

“Obviously that is a big factor in increasing energy costs here, and we expect that to be on the floor in the next couple of weeks,” he told reporters in the Capitol.

The broad consensus among scientists is that climate change is occurring in large part because of human activity.

The legislation is a "logical response to environmental overkill," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the "chairman emeritus" of the committee, said.

Democrats railed against the legislation Thursday, arguing the bill will endanger public health and the environment.

“In short it is anti-science, a know-nothing, do-nothing approach to the most challenging environmental problem of our time,” full committee ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said.

Rep. Bobby Rush, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, blasted the bill, calling it “an extreme and excessive piece of legislation.”

“This bill does not move America forward in any sense, but instead attempts to gut EPA’s ability to protect our citizens,” he said.

The legislation now moves to the full committee, where a vote is expected next week. The bill will likely pass the full committee and has a good chance of passing the House.

Three House Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation, including two top Democrats: Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

But the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is co-sponsored by one Senate Democrat: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). A second Senate Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), is expected to sign on to the bill, Inhofe told The Hill on Wednesday.

Republicans continued an effort to argue that passage of their legislation would stop EPA from raising gas prices under its pending climate regulations.

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“This committee is working hard to ease the economic pains of rising gas prices. This bill is the first step,” full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said.

But, as The Hill reported Wednesday, Republicans are basing that claim on an analysis of the House-passed cap-and-trade bill conducted by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, not on analysis of EPA climate regulations.

Industry groups quickly hailed the passage of the bill Thursday.

“We’re pleased to see this legislation moving forward to prevent EPA from imposing regulations that could raise energy costs and harm our fragile economic recovery,” American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice President Marty Durbin said in a statement. “Congress, not the EPA, is responsible for setting the energy policy of the United States.”

Ben Geman contributed to this story, which has been updated.