The NYT‘s lead editorial today is worth excerpting at length:
Shortly after he entered the Senate in 2007, John Barrasso told his Wyoming constituents that the country’s biggest need was an energy policy to deal with carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
That was then. In lockstep with other Senate Republicans, he helped kill last year’s energy and climate bill. Now he has introduced a bill that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency and any other part of the federal government from regulating carbon pollution.
Congress’s failure to enact a climate bill means that the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate these gases “” an authority conferred by a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2007 “” is, for now, the only tool available to the federal government to combat global warming.
The modest regulations the agency has already proposed, plus stronger ones it will issue later this year, should lead to the retirement of many of the nation’s older, dirtier coal-fired power plants and a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.
Mr. Barrasso’s bill is not an isolated challenge. Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” has unveiled a somewhat narrower bill to undercut the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican and new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, simultaneously introduced a companion bill.
There are a half-dozen other such measures in circulation, at least one of which would weaken the agency’s long-held powers to regulate conventional ground-level pollutants like soot and mercury.
One or another of these bills has a real shot in the Republican-controlled House. Their chances are slimmer in the Senate, where the bigger danger is a proposal by Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, that would block any new regulations on power plants and other industrial sources for two years.
That is just obstruction by another name. It would delay modernization and ensure that more carbon is dumped into the atmosphere. History shows that regulatory delays have a way of becoming permanent.
It is tempting to blame the entire energy industry for these attacks on the E.P.A.’s authority. The oil companies are pushing hard against any new rules….
The agency does have a heavy regulatory agenda. It will issue proposals not only on greenhouse gases but also ozone, sulfur dioxide, and mercury, which poisons lakes and fish. These regulations are fully consistent with the Clean Air Act. Some of them should have been completed during the Bush years; all are essential to protect the environment. The agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, has moved cautiously, making clear that she will target only the largest polluters and not, as the Republicans claim, mom-and-pop businesses.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised to protect “common-sense safeguards” to the nation’s environment. The rules under siege in Congress will help clean the air, reduce toxic pollution in fish and slow emissions of greenhouse gases. It is hard to imagine anything more sensible than that.