GOP lawmaker threatens battle over EPA regulation

House Republicans are gearing up for a fight against Obama administration plans to counter climate change through increased regulation. 

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Energy and Power subcommittee, warned Tuesday that any attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose new emission standards for existing power plants would meet fierce opposition. Already the agency has put forward rules to control emissions at new power plants. 

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“The Environmental Protection Agency has been overly zealous,” Whitfield said during remarks at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) winter meeting.

“If they start trying to do this with existing plants, they’re going to have a real battle,” he told reporters afterward.

Whitfield said the panel would hold hearings to shed light on the economic consequences such a rule would have on the nation’s energy industry and did not rule out legislation that would limit EPA’s authority or block the proposal.

Whitfield called pursuit of the new regulation a “serious misstep” and questioned the administration’s legal authority to adopt it. He also said opponents would organize against the plan, to which President Obama alluded in his inaugural address last month.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

Whitfield disputed the president, pointing to published reports indicating that wildfire and hurricane activity is actually trending downward.

“I, for one, do not think climate change is the No. 1 issue out there,” he said.

Rather than increase regulation, the federal government should be working to increase energy production and put the country on a path to energy independence, Whitfield said, noting that is feasible thanks to breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing and other emerging technologies.

“All of the sudden we find in America we have the opportunity to be energy independent,” Whitfield told the conference.

Whitfield later said he hoped Obama would replace outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with someone willing to pursue a balanced approach to regulation of the energy industry.

“I hope that he’s not like Lisa Jackson,” he quipped.