Just a few days before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) became the first official candidate for president in the 2016 election, he introduced a bill which, if enacted, would repeal all federal climate change regulation in the United States.
The American Energy Renaissance Act, also sponsored in the House by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), seeks to prevent the federal government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions through any of its executive agencies, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency. It would do so by expressly forbidding any efforts to fight climate change under five laws — The Clean Air Act, The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, The Endangered Species Act, and The Solid Waste Disposal Act.
Additionally, if the bill became law, the government would not be able to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride. All current attempts to regulate carbon pollution by the EPA would be repealed. That includes controversial proposed rules to limit carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, but also seemingly includes highly successful and relatively uncontroversial measures like fuel economy standards for cars.
“Proposals to regulate greenhouse gases are very expensive and threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs,” a statement on Cruz’s website announcing the bill reads. “The authority to regulate such gases should only occur with explicit authority from Congress.”
Interestingly enough, all the laws that give executive agencies authority to regulate greenhouse gases were given that authority by Congress. Indeed, the Clear Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and all the other laws cited in the bill were passed by Congress. Republicans opposed to climate regulation have argued that the Clean Air Act does not allow for regulation of carbon emissions — however, the Supreme Court has affirmed that it does.
The American Energy Renaissance Act is a sprawling piece of energy legislation, and includes much more than just a few attempts to gut the Clean Air Act and U.S. climate policy. The bill also includes provisions to approve the Keystone XL pipeline; to increase drilling on public lands like national parks and forests; to prevent federal regulation of fracking; and to end the ban on crude oil exports. Cruz introduced a nearly identical piece of legislation last year.
Naturally, all these policies would have the effect of drastically increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which the vast majority of scientists agree cause climate change.
Cruz, however, has been consistently adamant that humans don’t cause climate change — a position that has only gotten more extreme since he announced his presidential run. Just this week, Cruz said that most climate scientists and those who accept their findings are “the equivalent of the flat-Earthers,” while comparing himself to Galileo for denying the data. Historians were not happy with the comparison.
Despite how far away Cruz’s views are from the scientific consensus, he currently holds a good deal of power over how climate change is researched in the United States. He is the chair of the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee, the duties of which include oversight of NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.