Late yesterday the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill on straight party lines that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases even though a series of court cases – which ended at the U.S. Supreme Court – said EPA had the right to do so.
HR 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 would amend the general provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to establish a rule prohibiting the Administrator of the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases (GHG) to address climate change. By changing the CAA, the bill undercuts the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision.
Since nothing in the Act precludes states from pursuing their own GHG policies, this is a severe setback for automakers that need one coordinated national standard for fuel economy and CO2 emissions. If passed by the full House (likely) and the Senate (maybe) the Act faces a certain veto from President Obama. No one knows if there are enough votes in the Senate to override a veto, but the parallel Senate bill has some Democratic support.
Section 3 of the Act would amend CAA section 209(b) to exclude greenhouse gases from the Administrator’s waiver authority for new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines for Model Year 2017 and any other subsequent model year. So the fuel economy regulations that are being rolled out between now and 2016 that establish a 35.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel economy are intact.
A bitter irony for automakers is that the Energy and Commerce Committee is chaired by Congressman Fred Upton from Michigan.