By Ben Geman - 12/02/12 07:47 PM EST
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) believes all is not lost in his push to thwart Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations despite President Obama’s victory and Democrats’ continued control of the Senate.
Inhofe, one of Capitol Hill’s most persistent critics of EPA regulations on carbon dioxide and other pollutants, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that new political opportunities await EPA foes.
“There are a lot of Democrats who are coming up for re-election in 2014 who are not going to want to fall on the sword of Obama on this overregulation once the people at home know what it is costing them,” he said on Platts Energy Week TV.
The mid-1990s law, which was part of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s (R-Ga.) “Contract with America,” gives Congress an opening to overturn federal agency regulations. Resolutions under the act are immune from Senate filibuster.
However, it has been used successfully just once, and new efforts would face big Senate obstacles (not to mention likely veto threats).
Recent attempts to use the CRA to target EPA rules have fallen short in the Senate. Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) attempt to turn back rules on smog and particulate-forming pollution from power plants stalled in late 2011.
Inhofe’s separate measure to block rules on power plant emissions of mercury and other toxics fell short in June.
But new battles await. The courts may force EPA to rewrite the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that Paul tried to thwart, while EPA has yet to finalize carbon emissions standards for new power plants and other rules in the offing.
Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee but must leave that post in the next Congress.
He will remain on the committee and says his focus won’t change.
“I will continue to do the things that I have been doing actively on the committee, most having to do with overregulation and energy,” he said.
Inhofe and other critics of EPA rules allege they will hurt the economy by making coal less viable as a power source, forcing closure of plants and mines and costing jobs.
But EPA defenders say the coal-fired power industry’s woes don’t stem from EPA rules, and instead point to the natural gas production boom that has driven down costs for the fuel source that competes with coal.
EPA defenders say Inhofe and other Republicans are seeking to gut vital public-health protections that are estimated to prevent large numbers of heart attacks, childhood asthma cases and other respiratory ailments.