House limits Obama on environment regs

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WASHINGTON -- The House threw a wrench in President Barack Obama's climate change initiative Thursday with a vote to limit the government's ability to enact environmental regulations.

If the Senate follows suit, regulators would need congressional approval to implement new rules with an economic impact of more than $1 billion. The bill also would allow the Energy Department to block environmental regulations that would adversely affect the economy.

Sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., the bill passed, 232-181.

"President Obama's EPA rules and regulations cost small businesses and families hard-earned money, adding up to billions of dollars every year. Handed down by unelected bureaucrats that are unaccountable to the American people, these rules continue to dig deeper into people's pockets and stifle job creation," Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said after the vote.

Opponents said the Energy Consumers Relief Act puts energy company profits ahead of public health.

It would "cripple the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe," said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif.

The bill includes a measure sponsored by Upper St. Clair Republican Tim Murphy that would require explicit congressional approval in order for regulators to use "cost of carbon" valuation, a calculation of environmental risk based on factors such as the cost of air-conditioning homes and shoring up seawalls because of rises in ocean water caused by climate change.

Mr. Murphy said the calculations are unreliable estimates that shouldn't be used. Reliance on them could have serious consequences for the coal industry, which is key to his district's economy.

Strict environmental regulation is expensive to comply with, Mr. Murphy said. The anticipated cost of compliance has been blamed for the recent closure of coal plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

"In southwestern Pennsylvania, coal is our heritage. ... That heritage and prosperity is threatened by this new regulation," he said in a floor speech Thursday.

Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, said regulations that are expensive to comply with translate into higher energy costs that hurt families and businesses everywhere.

Fellow Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia blasted the administration's use of the "social cost of carbon" calculation, calling it "nothing more than a gimmick used to circumvent Congress so that job-killing regulations in an anti-domestic energy agenda can move forward."

The White House had no immediate comment.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the Murphy amendment is based on "magical thinking" and "science denial."

"The EPA and other federal agencies have a responsibility to calculate the costs of climate change and take them into account when they issue new standards. That's common sense," Mr. Waxman said.

Industry groups including the National Construction Alliance, the National Mining Association and United Mine Workers of America supported the Murphy amendment, which passed 234-178.

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Washington bureau chief Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com, 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.


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