Clean Air Act Digest, 8.6.13
On Thursday, August 1, before the Senate left for the August in-district work period, Senate Majority Leader Reid moved to the Shaheen-Portman (S.1392) energy efficiency bill. This means that the Senate will likely take up debate on the legislation when they return in September. As we reported in the last Digest, Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Portman (R-PA) put forward a bipartisan, consensus-based energy efficiency bill that will save consumers money and cut pollution. There were concerns that some in the Senate would try to hijack the bill and push anti-science, anti-health poison pill amendments aimed at the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to cut dangerous carbon pollution. The community sent a letter to the Senate earlier several weeks ago, urging support for a clean bill. It will be important to continue advocating for a clean bill after recess.
Also on August 1, the House passed the Energy Consumers Relief Act (H.R. 1582) by a 232-181 vote, mostly along party lines. This bill eliminates federal responsibility to protect the public’s health and safety by disregarding many environmental, health and safety considerations. It also repeals EPA’s authority to finalize public health standards for clean air and clean water, transferring necessary authority to the Department of Energy–a different agency with a different mission. An amendment offered by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), which would require the federal government to ignore the economic costs of climate change by prohibiting the use of the social cost of carbon (SCC), passed in a 234-178 vote. The SCC provides an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. See the community opposition letters to the amendment and the bill for more information.
Right before adjourning for August recess, the House passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2013 (H.R. 367) by a 232-183 vote, largely along party lines (only six Democrats voted in favor). This legislation modifies the federal rulemaking process by requiring both chambers of Congress to approve any federal rule that would cost $50 million or more within a 70-day period. As most rules, including those with bipartisan and public support, take a minimum of eight years to get completed, this bill will delay or shut down the creation of necessary public health and safety regulations. An amendment from Rep. Scalise (R-LA) also passed, requiring any proposed tax on carbon emissions to be approved by Congress. The bill as introduced set the threshold for congressional approval at $100 million; it was amended on the House floor to $50 million. Click here to read the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards’ press release on this legislation.
Appropriations—House and Senate:
The appropriations process—by which Congress determines funding levels for federal agencies for the coming fiscal year—suffered a spectacular meltdown in the week before the August recess. In the House, where the budget approved by the Republican majority would require draconian cuts in most non-defense programs, the House leadership on Tuesday had to pull the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (H.R. 2610) from the floor because they did not have enough votes to pass it. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee began marking up the Interior, Environment appropriations bill but did not finish it, though before the committee adjourned abruptly, they added a rider that would prevent EPA from using the updated “social cost of carbon” in calculating the costs and benefits of environmental standards. See the last Digest for more on the bill that funds Interior and EPA, and Digest from July 19 for more on the social cost of carbon.
In the Senate, where the proposed funding levels for the federal budget are much more in line with the needs of federal agencies to carry out their missions, Republicans on Thursday successfully filibustered the Senate version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill (S. 1243) on the basis that it did not cut funding enough. The only Republican to vote to move forward with the bill was Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the top Republican on the relevant subcommittee. (E&E PM—subscription required.) On the same day (August 1), the Senate Interior, Environment Appropriations Committee released its draft funding bill, which would provide funding at much more reasonable levels than the House bill, and with far fewer policy restrictions (“riders”). The Senate bill would provide $8.5 billion for EPA, an increase over this years’ funding level, compared to $5.5 billion in the House bill. (E&E PM—subscription required.)
Urge your US Senators: Keep Energy Efficiency Bill Clean
A good bipartisan bill (S. 761) that would increase energy efficiency is making its way through the Senate. Unfortunately, it has become a target for harmful amendments that would undermine clean energy and the President’s recently announced Climate Action Plan.
Ask your senators to oppose amendments that would weaken the integrity of the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill!
Urge your Senator: Protect the President’s Climate Plan, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Alert
Tell your Senators: Keep Shaheen-Portman Clean!, Sierra Club Action Alert
Senate Restores Nearly $6 Billion for Agencies Targeted by House, Politico, 8.2.13
A Republican Case for Climate Action, New York Times Opinion Pages, 8.1.13
Political Vendetta Against Health Safeguards Founded on Shocking Falsehoods, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Blog, 8.1.13
Protect Our Air and Water-Oppose H.R. 367, the REINS Act, Sierra Club Letter, 7.31.13
Oppose the REINS Act (H.R. 367), A Radical Assault on Public Protections, League of Conservation Voters Letter, 7.31.13
SOLD! Deepwater Wind Wins America’s First Offshore Wind Lease Auction, National Wildlife Federation Blog, 7.31.13
New EPA Head McCarthy Outlines Ambitious Agenda in Harvard Speech, Washington Post Blog, 7.30.13
REINS Act Opposition Letter, Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, 7.26.13
Above is a sampling of the most recent resources related to upholding the Clean Air Act. Don’t forget USCAN has a series of pages that compile items like these and much more:
Clean Air Act Digest is a publication put together by US Climate Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council. Please contact Lara Levison at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Click here for past issues.