Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee harshly questioned the EPA’s acting assistant administrator, Janet McCabe, on Wednesday, saying that the Clean Power Plan, the EPA’s rule to reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector, was overly burdensome on the American economy and was part of the EPA’s longstanding war on industry.
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) notably called the EPA rules “un-American,” during a hearing of the Energy and Power subcommittee to review the EPA’s regulatory rules in the current administration.
“It’s draining the lifeblood out of our businesses. Between the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the U.S., and others that you folks have gotten,” Johnson said. “The hundreds of billions of dollars that you guys are sucking out of our economy every year that could be going toward job creation.”
Speaking for several minutes, Johnson concluded by saying, “I think it’s absurd, I think it’s irresponsible. Quite frankly, Ms. McCabe, I think it’s un-American.”
In his further questioning, he repeatedly cut the witness off. The exchange can be seen below.
Johnson’s district runs along the southeast of Ohio, bordering Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He has said that because he “is a scientist” (he has a degree in computer science), he does not accept the science of human-caused climate change. “I am not an alarmist that believes that greenhouse gas emissions coming from the coal industry are causing major problems,” he said in 2011.
Other Republican representatives also questioned the EPA’s impact on the economy, with one accusing McCabe of having “worked against the industry since day one” of her career.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), repeatedly asked the committee chair to rein in the “badgering” of the witness. “Mr. Chairman, there is no place in this hearing for a witness, being from the EPA or whatever agency… to be called un-American.”
The committee chair, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), defended Johnson and said: “There are every strong feelings on this issue, because many people… believe the EPA is exceeding its legal authority under the direction of a president who is trying to impose his will on climate change around the world.”
Many people… believe the EPA is exceeding its legal authority under the direction of a president who is trying to impose his will on climate change around the world
Under President Obama, the EPA has expanded or created rules to help address pollution tied to climate change, as well as to further clarify and protect water and air quality in the United States, particularly as science becomes better understood. The Clean Power Plan, in particular, was developed after the agency found that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. A Supreme Court decision has subsequently directed the executive branch to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, a law passed by Congress in 1990. There is an ongoing legal battle over whether the EPA has that authority and the Clean Power Plan was developed correctly.
The EPA has also lowered the allowable ozone levels, released a rule, referenced above, that covers drinking water sources for a third of the country, and put limits on methane emissions from new oil and gas infrastructure.
Interestingly, one representative, Virginia’s Morgan Griffith (R), brought up the switch to natural gas, blaming the EPA’s efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions for the rise in natural gas infrastructure — and the ensuing methane emissions.
“You talked about methane being a whole lot worse than carbon dioxide. Right now they are proposing in my region two or three new, giant gas pipelines,” Griffith said. “Now, I’m not against the gas industry, but you’ve indicated that there is a lot of leakage when they are both getting the natural gas out of the ground, which we have some in the district, and then when they are piping it across the country. But your policies on coal have pushed people to natural gas.”
It was unclear whether Griffith, who has said he does not accept the science of human-caused climate change, was simply using the EPA’s position against it, or whether he was trying to make a point about job losses and gains. Coal jobs are down, but natural gas, wind, and solar jobs are up in the state.
The EPA has begun work on a rule that would regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas infrastructure.