On March 16, 2011, the full House Energy and Commerce Committee passed Committee Chairman Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill designed to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) of its rulemaking authority over greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions.  Committee Republicans and three Democrats, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.), voted for the bill. 

With certain exceptions, H.R. 910, “The Energy Tax Prevention Act,” (the “Act”), precludes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) regulation of GHGs at stationary sources by amending the Clean Air Act to expressly define GHGs as excluded from regulation and repealing EPA’s previous finding that carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health and public safety.  At the Committee hearing, Rep. Waxman (D-Calif.), the panel’s top Democrat, offered an amendment to reinstate the endangerment finding, which failed.  Several other amendments offered by Committee Democrats likewise were defeated, including language allowing EPA to regulate emissions if doing so would help the U.S. reduce its dependence on oil.  The Committee did add language from Rep. Matheson (D-Utah) stating that Congress should seek to curb GHG emissions “by developing policies that do not adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies and employment.”  Republican’s argued for the Act on largely economic terms, saying EPA’s proposed regulation of GHG emissions would drive up fuel costs and harm an already ailing economy.  Some Democrats argued there is no evidence that EPA’s plans to reduce GHG emissions will harm American families. 

The Act is expected to pass the full House perhaps even before the Easter recess in April, but Senate passage of the measure, which was introduced by Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla) with 42 Republican and one Democratic co-sponsors, is less certain.  In a surprise move, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved this week to attach the bill as an amendment to a small business bill under consideration on the floor.  Democrats then began floating counter-measures, including a bill by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to delay EPA’s stationary source rules for two years and an amendment by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) essentially to codify EPA’s Tailoring Rule.  Majority Leader Harry Reid then delayed a vote on the small business bill until after next week’s recess.