Senate Republicans are poised to launch a series of attacks aimed squarely at President Obama’s climate change initiative, as the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward this summer with a host of new regulations.
Legislation coming before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday would effectively block the EPA’s latest proposal, a rule defining which waterways it can regulate.
Barrasso’s bill would force the withdrawal of the Waters of the United States rule and give the EPA instructions for rewriting it, a move that would essentially limit the number of waterways the agency is able to regulate.
The water rule, unveiled last month, represents the first in a spate of major regulations due out in the coming months. Rules placing new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from both new and existing power plants are under White House review now and should be released before the fall.
The agency has said it will also finalize a rule on ozone levels this year, despite fierce critics from business groups that say the regulation would be the most expensive ever enacted.
Senate Republicans have drafted plans to stop many of the regulations, as they look to beat back the president’s climate change push and fulfill campaign promises made in the months before they seized control of the upper chamber in November.
Following the election, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellFive fights for Trump’s first year Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road AACR’s march on Washington MORE pledged “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”
McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t released a schedule for bringing EPA bills to the floor, though several are in the pipeline.
Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoEconomic adjustment strategies for the 21st Century Coal-country advocates push aid for jobless miners ‘Nuclear’ cloud looms over Trump agenda MORE (R-W.Va.), for instance, has introduced a bill blocking the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, a measure that Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James InhofeJames InhofeTaiwan deserves to participate in United Nations Optimism rising for infrastructure deal Repeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate MORE (R-Okla.) and McConnell support. She said Tuesday she hopes to move the bill before August.
“I think it’s pretty clear that when they say it’s a straight-out environmental agenda, that doesn’t take into account the economic impacts across the states, basically pursuing policies that’s picking winners and losers in this country,” Capito said of the EPA’s rule-making.
“The heartland, where West Virginia is, and most especially West Virginia, I think has already suffered great job loss, and it’s going to get worse.”
Republicans have looked for Democratic allies in their fight against the EPA, and they’ve found at least a few. Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPicking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Manchin: Trump should make his clothes in West Virginia Sanders supporter to run against red-state Democrat MORE (D-W.Va.) has sponsored both Capito’s and Barrasso’s bills; Sens. Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampBusiness groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Sanders supporter to run against red-state Democrat GOP lays out regulatory reform wish list MORE (D-N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyGOP rep to potential Senate rival: Don't run Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Senate Dems target potential GOP candidates over ObamaCare repeal MORE (D-Ind.) have signed on to Barrasso’s bill.
Republicans will need significant Democratic support to overcome both a potential filibuster in the Senate and likely vetoes from Obama, if the bills get that far. An Inhofe aide said the committee is working toward a veto-proof majority for Barrasso’s bill.
In the House, Republicans have taken an aggressive approach to the EPA as well. Lawmakers passed legislation in April to stop the water rule, which bill sponsor Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said would “increase confusion, increase uncertainty, increase lawsuits, and open up just about any water or wet area to federal regulation.”
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has scheduled votes on two bills designed to block EPA rules this month. In a memo to members in late May, he said the bills, which would undo the Clean Power Plan and coal ash regulations, would “protect consumers from burdensome and costly EPA regulations, keep the decision power in the hands of the states, and help modernize outdated laws.”
The House Appropriations Committee released an Interior and Environment spending bill Tuesday that would block potential EPA rule-making on everything from the power plant regulations to oversight of lead in fishing tackle. McConnell has previously endorsed using appropriations riders to target EPA policies where possible.
The EPA, for its part, has defended its rule-making as both necessary and legal — and within the purview Congress has assigned it.
“Clean air and clean water should not be a political issue,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said.
“All sides of the aisle want a clean and safe planet for their children and future generations. We are just doing our jobs — as Congress has directed us, and as courts have affirmed for us — to protect public health and the environment.”