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Clean Air Act
The New York Times, January 31, 2011

Wyoming Senator Seeks to Lasso E.P.A.
By John M. Broder

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, introduced legislation on Monday to block the Environmental Protection Agency from taking any action to regulate greenhouse gases to address climate change. His broadly written bill is one of several assaults on the E.P.A.’s regulatory authority that will be coming from Republicans and coal-state Democrats in both houses of Congress in coming days.

The Barrasso bill would overturn the agency’s 2009 finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are harmful to public health and the environment. It would pre-empt any action by the E.P.A. to limit greenhouse gas emissions without specific Congressional authorization. It would forbid the use of several landmark federal laws for the purpose of dealing with global warming, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s time for the administration to face the facts: Americans rejected cap and trade because they know it means higher energy prices and lost jobs,” Mr. Barrasso said in a statement. “Washington agencies are now trying a backdoor approach to regulate our climate by abusing existing laws.”

The measure would allow the new vehicle mileage and emissions standards negotiated by federal and state regulators and the automakers to go forward, although it would strip the E.P.A.’s power to manage them, shifting responsibility to the Department of Transportation. It would allow regulation of any greenhouse gas that presents a direct and immediate threat to human health.

The bill would also allow states to enact climate change legislation.

Mr. Barrasso, who is an orthopedic surgeon and a skeptic on climate change science, has seven co-sponsors, all Republicans.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, and a number of other coal-country Democrats support a less-sweeping two-year moratorium on E.P.A. regulation of carbon emissions to give Congress time to draft a law to address the issue.

Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat and chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she would work to block Mr. Barrasso’s bill. “Since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have worked together to protect American families from dangerous pollution,” she said in a statement. “The Republican effort now to turn their back on the health of the American people will be resisted by those of us who believe it is our responsibility to make life better for the people we serve.”

Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director for National Wildlife Federation, called the Barrasso bill a “frontal assault” on the nation’s basic environmental laws.

“It would create a parade of polluter loopholes allowing for unlimited carbon pollution,” said Mr. Mendelson, who was part of the legal team that won the Supreme Court case that led to the E.P.A.’s finding that greenhouse gases pose a danger to public welfare and the environment. “Americans don’t want Congress undermining E.P.A.’s work on new clean vehicle standards and cleaning up dirty smokestacks.”

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton