A cool reception: EPA administator experiences climate change in the House
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson got a cool reception Wednesday in her first appearance before a House energy subcommittee under Republican rule. Conservatives grilled Jackson on her agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, saying it would burden manufacturers with expensive costs.
EPA regulations would "reduce manufacturing output in Michigan by $3 billion," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. Last week, Upton and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) unveiled legislation that would strip the EPA of its ability to force industries to lower substantial greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming under the Clean Air Act.
The tense atmosphere was a turnabout for Jackson, who for two years testified before a House Democratic leadership that embraced climate-change science. Wednesday she faced GOP members who didn't allow scientists to testify, and who don't buy their assertion that human activity contributes to global warming.
"There is strong, credible...evidence" that it does, Jackson said in her testimony.
"Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question - that would become part of this committee's legacy" if the legislation passes, she said. Jackson asked the committee to consider that the EPA's enforcement of the Clean Air Act "saves millions of ...adults and children" from expensive ailments that rise when "smokestacks and tailpipes" emit unrestricted amounts of pollution.
As soon as she finished, Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) started in. Congress rejected federal government regulation of greenhouse gases three times, he said. "Do you object to an up and down vote in Congress?" Whitfield asked.
"I would not presume to tell Congress what to do," Jackson answered, saying she was acting under the authority of a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that allowed that the EPA could enforce the Clean Air Act, including heavy carbon emissions.
Republicans disputed her interpretation of that ruling, and her understanding of the Clean Air Act, arguing that neither call for the regulation of "greenhouse gases" that contribute to climate change. Several members asked Jackson if the EPA took into account the number of jobs that regulating big polluters would cost.
"This hearing is about jobs," Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said. In his state, he said, 14,000 thousand miners jobs were lost to the Clean Air Act. Shimkus rejected Jackson's estimate that clean energy technology will create 1.5 million jobs, saying EPA's "regulation will skyrocket costs that will destroy jobs."
Democrats on the committee rallied to Jackson, saying that the hearing, and the legislation from Upton and Inhofe - called the Energy Tax Prevention Act - was not about jobs.
"It's underlying premise is that climate change is a hoax," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). "You have the power to rewrite the nation's laws, but you do not have the power to rewrite the laws of nature," Waxman said to his GOP colleagues.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) denounced the legislation. "The American people are against this Dirty Air Act," he said. "Far too many people face a constant threat from the air they breathe."
| February 9, 2011; 4:08 PM ET
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