Obama Adviser: If EPA is Blocked on Emissions, Forget About CAFE Deal

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson extended an olive branch
this week to lawmakers who are pushing to block her from regulating
carbon emissions in the absence of a congressional climate bill, but
Jackson’s promise to delay action until next year appears to have made no headway with Republicans and coal-state Democrats. 

carol_browner_obama_photo1.jpgCarol Browner, at right, with the president. (Photo: TreeHugger)

If Congress succeeds in blocking the EPA from following through on a Supreme Court mandate
to regulate emissions, a legislative path to nationwide pollution
limits would effectively become the sole means for the Obama
administration to follow through on commitments it made at last year’s Copenhagen climate summit.

But White House climate adviser Carol Browner
noted today that a congressional block on the EPA’s authority would
have a second wave of consequences for transportation policy — it
would jettison the Obama administration’s much-heralded deal to raise auto fuel-efficiency standards to 35.5 mile per gallon by 2016.

"I
don’t know why members [of Congress] would want to go out and vote
against the science of climate change," Browner told attendees at a
climate conference sponsored by The New Republic.

Without EPA
authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act, she explained,
"there is no car rule" — referring to the agreement to adopt
California’s landmark efficiency standards as a national model.

"If
the car rule were not to go forward, California would still have all
its authorities," Browner added, meaning that the auto industry’s fears
of compliance with a "patchwork" of regional fuel standards would become a reality.

Browner’s
comments came as climate legislation continues to lose momentum in the
Senate, giving more political ammunition to lawmakers and industry
representatives who seek to stall the process.

Yet Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), one of three negotiators working on a "tri-partisan" climate deal in the upper chamber, took a notably upbeat tone today on the prospects for action this year, and Browner concurred with Kerry’s sentiment.

"We’re
all now playing the same game inside the same stadium," she said. "The
question is, can we bring it to a successful conclusion? … We’re
fully engaged in this effort."

One move the White House won’t make, per Browner, is to release its own set of specific climate proposals, similar to the health care reform plan
released by the president this week. That leaves unclear the
administration’s stance on several simmering environmental debates,
including the share of revenue from a future climate bill that should go to clean transportation.

  • As far as I can see, Congress could only deny the EPA the authority to regulate emissions if that is necessary to get a majority for more comprehensive climate legislation. Otherwise, there could never be 60 Senate votes to deny EPA this authority.

    Am I missing something? This article doesn’t make it clear (to me, at least) whether you are talking about removing EPA authority without also passing climate legislation.

  • Charles, those lawmakers who argue in favor of blocking EPA authority often cite the need to give Congress “space” to work on climate legislation as a reason for doing so. But it’s far from clear that removing EPA from the process would have any effect on the Senate’s ability to legislate on the issue.

  • Elana, you say that there are *some* lawmakers who argue in favor of blocking EPA authority before climate legislation passes, to give Congress space.

    But as far as I can see, there is not a chance in the world that these lawmakers could get 60 votes in the Senate.

    I agree with you that they are wrong. Blocking the EPA would not give Congress “space to work on climate legislation.” It would actually remove the main incentive that the Republicans have to work on climate legislation.

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