Lawmakers vote to thwart EPA move on ‘social cost of carbon’

The House voted Thursday to block the Environmental Protection Agency from weighing the benefits of curbing carbon emissions when crafting major energy-related regulations.

Lawmakers voted 234-178 for Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-Pa.) amendment to prevent EPA from factoring the “social cost of carbon” into rules unless a federal law is enacted that allows its consideration.

Fifteen Democrats voted with almost all Republicans for the amendment, while three Republicans opposed it.

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The amendment was tacked onto GOP legislation that allows the Energy Department to veto EPA rules with $1 billion or more in costs if the department determines they would harm the economy.

The amendment vote was the latest scuffle over the recent White House increase in the social cost of carbon, a metric of estimated damages caused by heat-trapping emissions.

“We have already seen what the social cost of the war on coal is today. The cost is jobs,” Murphy said on the House floor during debate on the amendment.

Murphy and other GOP critics allege the administration’s development of the cost estimate has not been transparent, and more broadly oppose EPA air pollution rules, calling them too aggressive.

But Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, called the amendment an assault on efforts to address dangerous climate change.

“The Murphy amendment denies that carbon pollution is harmful,” Waxman said ahead of the vote. “According to this amendment the cost of carbon pollution is zero.”

“That is science denial at its worst,” Waxman said.

Murphy's amendment is part of wider GOP criticism of the increased social cost of carbon estimate. Click here, here and here for more coverage.

The underlying bill is slated to clear the House Thursday afternoon but faces dim prospects in the Democrat-led Senate.

The House disposed of five other amendments today, from:

— Waxman, striking language allowing the Department of Energy to veto EPA rules. Failed 183-230.



— Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), eliminating language on Department of Energy oversight. Not offered.



— Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), preventing a section of the bill from affecting air and water quality. Failed 182-224.



— Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), requiring the EPA to make public all data and documents it relies on to develop estimates under the bill. Accepted in voice vote.



— John Culberson (R-Texas), prohibiting the EPA from using the "social cost of carbon" formula as it assesses energy-related rules until a final rule on the social cost of carbon is issued. Not offered.

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