Even as the Senate works to advance a number of bipartisan efforts, however, some in Washington are pushing for hasty action over sound policy. Most aggressive has been the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has already begun to impose climate regulations that will soon affect every corner of the economy. The agency launched this effort last December when it issued an “endangerment finding” for greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.
At first blush, EPA’s finding appears to merely affirm the science of climate change. But it actually does much more than that – it requires EPA to impose command-and-control regulations limiting the release of greenhouse gases. This unilateral effort will increase consumer energy prices, add greatly to administrative costs for businesses and create massive new layers of government bureaucracy. Such regulation will ultimately endanger job creation, economic growth and America’s competitiveness.
At a time when our economy is struggling to rebound and millions of Americans are looking for work, we’re on the verge of burying some of our most important economic engines under a mountain of bureaucratic regulations. Few industries will escape EPA’s reach – not manufacturers, not farmers, not even small businesses.
EPA’s regulations could also jeopardize crucial energy projects, such as the Alaska natural gas pipeline, and other important projects across the country.
I’m not alone in voicing concern. Senior Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced their own measures, going so far as to amend the Clean Air Act itself, to halt EPA. Even administration officials and environmental advocates have consistently said they prefer congressional action over agency directives. Given the widespread support for legislation, and the likely consequences of regulation, I believe these Clean Air Act regulations should be taken off the table. And they can be, through enactment of the Disapproval Resolution (S.J.Res.26) that I filed with 40 of my Democratic and Republican colleagues. My decision to introduce this measure is rooted in a desire to see Congress – not unelected bureaucrats – lead the way in addressing climate change.
An excellent place to start is the bipartisan bill (S.1462) approved last year by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Our legislation will help facilitate the deployment of clean energy technologies, increase domestic production of clean-burning natural gas, pave the way for carbon-free coal power and yield tremendous improvements in energy efficiency. It also strikes the balance we should seek in our policies: it will create American jobs and chart a path toward greater energy security while benefitting the environment.
The energy bill is proof of the progress that can be made when senators commit to working with each other across party lines. We can, and should, take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sending this legislation to the president for his signature.
Our alternative is to allow EPA to continue its march to economy-wide climate regulations. Those who favor this approach tend to have a simple and unfortunate reason for doing so: they believe the threat of regulation will force Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, no matter how bad the bill in question may be. But we will not, and should not, pass bad legislation to stave off bad regulations.
It is my hope that the Senate will not remain complicit in this coercive and counterproductive strategy. While climate change is a pressing matter, the threat of back-door regulations is not encouraging anyone to work faster. It is polarizing the debate and distracting from efforts that might otherwise lead to common ground and consensus.
The American people want the federal government to take a breath, reaffirm its priorities, and focus on policies that will make environmental progress without damaging the economy. I will continue to fight for an opportunity to do just that – through legislation, not regulation – and hope you will encourage your representatives to join in the effort.