New US Congress May Prevent EPA Action on Climate Change

As the 112th Congress begins its session today, there will be a renewed focus on domestic priorities, many of which will have the tag “protecting American jobs” or “strengthening the U.S. economy.” One specific area of concern for many lawmakers — Republican and Democrat alike — is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have the audacity to create regulations that will address climate change.

To be clear, these regulations are modest and will target only the largest polluters and result in greenhouse gas emission reductions of about 5 percent (according to EPA estimates), which is not close to the 17 percent reduction that was proposed in last year’s failed climate change legislation.

While researching this blog, I discovered that the EPA’s mission is “to protect human health and the environment.” Sounds like a pretty good mission to me. Of course it’s always going to be cheaper to avoid restrictive environmental regulations, but isn’t access to clean air, fresh water and other necessities worth the extra investment if it means keeping more Americans healthy?

I can understand the difficulty many members of Congress feel — they are being pressured by heavy polluting industries to keep the status quo, because these industries are big parts of the economy and do employ many Americans. However, that’s no excuse for getting stuck in the past. Forty years ago, lead was prevalent in the paints used in American homes and the gasoline in our cars, yet its use has been phased out across the U.S. — and much of the world — because of serious health risks. Extensive research by climate scientists has found that unchecked climate change also poses a major threat to public health — so why should our reaction be any different?

It’s certainly possible that addressing climate change will cause certain industries to suffer, but it will also create new opportunities in emerging American industries such as solar and wind energy. This is how progress works.

If Congress is worried about the proper balance of addressing climate change and protecting American jobs, I would suggest it pass legislation to do so, instead of keeping the EPA from taking critical steps to protect our health and environment.

Manuel Oliva is the director of U.S. climate policy in CI’s Center for Conservation and Government.


  1. Kenneth Kavanaugh says

    Congress will do what the big money lobbying tells it to do. Namely restrict the EPA, and that agency’s mission of protecting the environment and human lives.

    The rhetoric Congress and its’ lobbying dollars buying the vote, and the voice, of Congress, is that the restrictions used to “protect” American lives and the environment, from future health hazards, is that the cost to the economy, and therefore employment increases, is too high.

    Maybe Congress should try a different tact, and start fining the big poluters, enforcing those fines and actually collecting those fines, then taking those fines and putting it to use by creating jobs in the areas that are in most need of an economic and employment stimuli.

    As for the big money/big corporate funding to the political parties, Congress needs to refuse, and return that money to the donors and advise those donors, that the funding through lobbying could have also employed more jobless, who need employment, rather than over-paying exorbitant fees to “mouth-pieces”, who are already employed and making more than the average employed constituent.

    The EPA also needs to go on the agressive, and when questioned by Congressional Committees, as to why the EPA failed to enforce laws and regulations, directly related to the EPA’s mission statements, reveal why Congressional back-room interference, forced the actions, now under review, by the agency.

    The last thing Congress and big corporate needs is to be accused of delaying the EPA’s enforcement of regulations, and cleaning up areas that most need assistance. Bad publicity is worse than losing a campaign contribution. Putting a face, whether a Congressman/woman, one of their staffers, or anyone from a Congressional Committee, on the public’s awareness, is not a good thing in any political season. Doing the same with the lobbyist’s, and their clientele, makes for a publicity nightmare, and costs more than just fines and re-furbishing, or up-grading factories, or products.

    Also the EPA, should make as part of the fine, conditions that the violator clean-up the polluted area, creating jobs, and using alternative energy measures. These would take care of the employment and economic issues as well as cleaning up affected areas. Also the EPA should enforce placing damages for delays, in cleaning affected areas, on the violators.

    A tougher, no-excuses, EPA is what corporations and Congress do NOT want to see coming to fruition, but the “business-as-usual” approach that has been on-going by the Congress, EPA and outsiders has cost too much already, and needs to stop.

  2. Laila says

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