EPA chief tangles with GOP on regulations

EPA chief tangles with GOP on regulations

The top Republican on the House Science Committee sparred with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, criticizing the EPA's scientific work and accusing it of being “an agency in pursuit of a purely political agenda."

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Overnight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule MORE got into a heated discussion about the agency’s rulemaking agenda and the science it uses to justify those rules during a Wednesday hearing. 

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The two tangled on the findings of a year-old federal report that concludes energy prices might go up as coal-fired power plants close under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s landmark climate rule for power plants. 

“This is the Department of Energy, this is the Energy Information Administration, this is this administration," Smith said. "So do you agree or disagree with their conclusion?”

McCarthy replied: “That is the opposite of what we think will happen based on our analysis,” saying the EPA expects energy prices to decline and jobs to grow as renewable energy takes off. 

“It’s nice to have the administration at war with itself,” Smith said. 

The two sparred on the Paris climate deal as well, with Smith arguing the international greenhouse gas reduction agreement will have a negligible impact on climate change. 

McCarthy said the deal is designed as a first step toward more climate work down the road. 

“I think it sets us on a course to work together on a planetary scale to address the biggest environmental and public health challenge we face,” she said. “You can’t make a marathon without getting across the starting line.”

Wednesday’s hearing was to focus on the science behind EPA rules and regulations. Smith has long been critical of the EPA’s scientific work, sponsoring a bill passed by the House last year requiring the agency release more of its internal science publicly.  

McCarthy faced almost three hours of questions from a GOP-dominated panel on Wednesday, fielding questions on EPA policies ranging from the Clean Power Plan, ozone limits and water rules to issues like emissions from race cars and a mine waste spill in Colorado. 

With Democrats holding a sit-in on the House floor demanding votes on gun-related bills, only three Democrats showed up for the hearing, leaving McCarthy to face a mostly hostile committee. 

The Democrats that did attend — ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) and Reps. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraA pathway to universal health care coverage Moderate Dems revive effort to stabilize ObamaCare markets The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE (Calif.) and Paul Tonko (N.Y.) — were mostly conciliatory to McCarthy. 

“I have little doubt that some members will try to argue that EPA is an overzealous job-killing agency that needs to be reined in,” Johnson said early in the hearing. “I am pleased that EPA continues to rise to this challenge [of protecting the environment] and has developed regulations that are balanced and progressive.”