By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 – Speaking for the American Farm Bureau Federation in a House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson said “Farm Bureau opposes the regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act.”

After detailing the many extra costs he says would fall on farmers and drive up food prices if the EPA is allowed to go ahead with its regulatory plans, Nelson warned that “once the Clean Air Act regulatory process has begun, it is very difficult to stop it administratively.” He said Farm Bureau supports “The Energy Tax Prevention Act” which would strip EPA's sweeping authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and explained that the proposed bill would restore “the jurisdiction of Congress to develop climate policy.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also voiced his support for the bill drafted by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, R-Mich. He charged that “the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases violates the Clean Air Act” and that the legislation is needed to correct this situation. He listed a string of examples of Texas' success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and said that “Texas remains committed to working with the EPA to improve air quality and hold polluters accountable. But Texas cannot support the EPA – and in fact must challenge it – when it pursues regulations that are contrary to the law and devastating to the economy.”

Abbott said Upton's Energy Tax Prevention Act “would put an end to the EPA’s illegal effort to re-write the Clean Air Act” and that “it is elected members of Congress – not unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats at the EPA – that must make legislative decisions for the country.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., who has introduced a matching bill in the Senate, explained that unilateral U.S. action to curb greenhouse gases would have virtually no effect on climate without matching action by other major polluters such as China and India. As a result, he said, “EPA’s regulations will impose enormous costs for no meaningful benefits.”

Inhofe insisted that “it is unfair and unacceptable to ask the steel worker in Ohio, the chemical plant worker in Michigan, and the coal miner in West Virginia to sacrifice their jobs so we can reduce temperature by a barely detectable amount in 100 years. Yet this is exactly what the EPA is doing. The Energy Tax Prevention Act would stop EPA and protect those jobs. It would ensure that America’s manufacturers can stay here and compete against China. And it would put Congress back in charge of deciding the nation’s climate change policy.”

With EPA's climate change agenda under attack in the hearing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson responded to hours of questioning by repeating that EPA has been acting under U.S. Supreme Court orders to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. The Committee's Ranking Member, Henry Waxman, D-Calif., bolstered that case by releasing a Bush administration letter which shows that in Jan. 2008 President Bush had “committed the US to pursue new, quantifiable actions to reduce carbon emissions” based on “the latest climate change science.” To read the letter, click here. Pointing to the 2008 letter, Waxman said “The science hasn’t changed in the last two years. In fact it has only gotten stronger. Yet somehow belief in science has become another partisan battleground.”

Remaining unruffled under the barrage of questions, Jackson challenged what she called congressional efforts “to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public.” She said “I respectfully ask the members of this Committee to keep in mind that EPA's implementation of the Clean Air Act saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe.”

Less respectfully, Jackson said that if the committee decides to support the Upton bill, “Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question, that would become part of this committee’s legacy.”

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