Rep. Dingell to Obama: Clean Air Act isn't right for greenhouse gas rules

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The GOP-controlled House, with the support of industry, fossil fuel and conservative groups, has consistently voted to thwart emissions rules. And Republicans combined with a bloc of centrist Democrats in the Senate also present a roadblock for climate legislation.

Dingell, the longest-serving lawmaker in the history of Congress, considers his success in updating the 1970 law one of his top achievements. The revision also laid the groundwork for the Obama administration’s move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The administration contends the Clean Air Act requires it to curb greenhouse gas emissions to protect the public health. That argument formed the legal basis for the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate emissions from new and existing power plants.

Many Democrats, noting congressional gridlock, have praised Obama's willingness to wield the Clean Air Act.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said a study released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that detailed 2012 as recording global highs for carbon emissions and sea levels, as well as one of the 10 warmest years on record, showed urgent action is needed.

"We can’t ignore these warnings and must address climate change so that we can protect our people, local communities, and the nation's economy. These findings underscore how correct the President is when he calls for enforcement of the Clean Air Act to address carbon pollution," the Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman said in a Tuesday statement.

But industry and Republicans have pushed back against the rules. They say the regulations will damage the economy, and they argue the EPA and the White House have stretched the law’s application too far by covering power plants.

The heated response to Obama's climate agenda means the White House should go back to the drawing board, Dingell told Obama in the July 31 letter.

“Despite the partisan disagreements in Congress of the last few years, I believe we can return to the times of compromise and sensible legislation that can create commonsense solutions to national issues including greenhouse gas emissions,” Dingell said.