EPW WHITE PAPER: FORECAST FOR COP-21: SENATE PREDICTS OBAMA CLIMATE PROMISES TO COME UP SHORT AGAIN

On March 31, President Obama submitted an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that would commit the United States to reducing greenhouse gas emission 26-28 percent by 2025. The president intends to accomplish this goal through his “Climate Action Plan” which is made up of domestic regulatory actions being issued by the EPA. To date, questions remain on the solvency and legality of his plan. Not only does it face numerous challenges in the courts by states, job-creators, and labor unions, even far-left environmentalists have emerged as skeptics of the president’s carbon mandates as they question if these regulations can effectively achieve the United States’ international commitment.

One thing is for certain about the president’s climate commitment, it will have no measureable impact on global warming. A study using EPA’s own data shows that the president’s commitment will only reduce global warming by 1/100th of a degree by 2100 , yet it will cost the United States’ economy hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs. This begs to question – why the pain for no gain?

The Environment and Public Works Committee is committed to providing oversight of the Paris climate talks and the president’s domestic actions that are intended to adhere to a commitment that he is making without the backing of the Senate, much less his own country. 

Clean Power Plans Myth vs. Facts 

Congressional Review Acts

BACKGROUND: On August 3, 2015, EPA announced two final rules to regulate CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants as a part of the President “Climate Action Plan.” The rules were published in the Federal Register on October, 23, 2015, and would impose an unprecedented new regulatory structure throughout the U.S. electricity sector. EPA does not project that either rule will have any meaningful impact on global temperatures. Leader McConnell and Sen. Capito introduced Congressional Review Act Resolutions of Disapproval for both rules, and Rep. Whitfield (R-KY) introduced companion resolutions in the House.

S. J. Res. 23: The McConnell – Manchin bipartisan Resolution of Disapproval strikes the EPA’s New Plant Rule. In this rule, EPA interprets section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to allow the agency to set CO2 standards for new coal-fired power plants premised on the installation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that are not commercially viable. While EPA maintains CCS is adequately demonstrated, there are no commercial-scale coal-fired power plants currently operating in the United States that could meet the standards. While coal-fired generation is currently the largest source of electricity in the United States, the rule would impose a de facto ban on construction of new coal-fired power plants.

S. J. Res. 24: The Capito-Heitkamp bipartisan Resolution of Disapproval strikes the EPA’s Existing Plant Rule, referred to as the EPA’s Power Plan. In this rule, EPA interprets section 111(d), a rarely invoked provision of the CAA, to require states to submit plans to the agency to meet mandatory CO2 targets set by EPA for each state’s electricity sector. Under the rule, EPA will judge the sufficiency of state plans that set forth how the state would meet the new mandates. The rule is accompanied by a proposed “Federal Plan” that would impose a regulatory cap-and-trade program on electric generating units in states that fail to submit a satisfactory state plan.

_________________________________________________________

Road to Paris Committee Oversight

The EPW Committee and the Clean Air Subcommittee has held seven committee hearings and one successful mark-up in the 114th Congress laying out the legal, procedural and technical concerns of the president’s climate agenda. Those hearings are as follows:

Nov. 18 - Examining the International Climate Negotiations

Sept. 29 - Economy-wide Implications of President Obama’s Air Agenda

July 8 - Road to Paris: Examining the President’s International Climate Agenda and Implications for Domestic Environmental Policy

June 23 - The Impacts of EPA’s proposed Carbon Regulations on Electricity Costs for American Businesses, Rural Communities and Families, and a legislative hearing on S. 1324

May 5 - Legal Implications of the Clean Power Plan

March 23 - Regional Impacts of EPA Carbon Regulations: The Case of West Virginia

March 11 - Examining State Perspectives of the EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide emissions rule for existing power Plants

Feb. 11 - Oversight Hearing: Examining EPA’s Proposed Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rules from New, Modified, and Existing Power Plants

The EPW Majority also worked for several weeks to schedule a joint hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order to provide appropriate and thorough oversight of the administration’s UN Framework on Climate Change. The administration refused to provide witnesses from the State Department, Council on Environmental Quality, and EPA on the same panel despite the agencies collaborative efforts to advance the president’s international commitment on climate change. 

_______________________________________________________________

What’s Being Said?

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming. Even for a country of China’s size, the scale of the correction is immense. The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated.

“[T]he Paris promises of the EU, Mexico, U.S. and China will diminish the economy at least $730 billion a year by 2030—and that is in an ideal world, where politicians consistently reduce emissions in the most effective ways… Another 127 nations have made promises for Paris that increase the total emissions cuts by one-fourth. The cuts on the table in Paris, then, will leave the global economy, in rough terms, $1 trillion short every year for the rest of the century—and that’s if the politicians do everything right. If not, the real cost could double. All of these high-flown promises will fail to accomplish anything substantial to rein in climate change.”

"The U.N.-sponsored Paris festival lends itself to unrealistic giveaways and meaningless rhetoric — the more self-righteous and pretentious, the better. The meeting won’t produce any particular result, and the day of reckoning where we find out it was all for naught won’t be scientifically determined until many years in the future. It seems well-suited for this president."

______________________________________________________________

The American people and Congress have spoken out against the federal government regulating carbon emissions through the following votes: 

  • July 25, 1997, the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel resolution unanimously with a  vote of 95-0 state that it was not the sense of the Senate that the United States should be a signatory to the Kyoto protocol.
  • Oct. 30, 2003, the Senate defeated S. 139, an effort to cap carbon emissions at the 2000 level, by a vote of 43 to 55.
  • June 22, 2005, the Senate once again defeated S. 1151, another attempt to impose mandatory caps on carbon, by a vote of 38-46.
  • June 6, 2008, the Senate defeated S. 3036, to cap carbon emissions at 63 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, by a vote of 48-36.
  • In 2009, the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy and Security Act, which would have established a variant of an emissions trading plan, was never brought up for a vote under a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Hearings

August 2021

Date Title
8/4/21 Hearing on the Nominations of Amanda Howe to be Assistant Administrator for Mission Support of the Environmental Protection Agency, David Uhlmann to be Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Carlton Waterhouse to be Assistant Administrator of Land and Emergency Management of the Environmental Protection Agency

July 2021

Date Title
7/29/21 Hearing on the Nominations of Stephen A. Owens, Jennifer Beth Sass, and Sylvia E. Johnson to be members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board Files
7/28/21 Examining the Benefits of Investing in USACE Water Infrastructure Projects
7/22/21 Examining Current Issues Adversely Affecting Environmental Justice Populations Files
7/21/21 Addressing Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Facing Our Nation’s Physical Infrastructure Files
7/14/21 Hearing on the Nomination of Michael Connor to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at the Department of Defense Files

June 2021

Date Title
6/24/21 The Role of Natural and Nature-Based Features in Water Resources Projects Files
6/16/21 Hearing on the Nominations of Jeffrey Prieto to be General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jane Nishida to be Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Alejandra Castillo to be Assistant Secretary for Economic Development of the Department of Commerce Files
6/9/21 PFAS: the View from Affected Citizens and States Files

May 2021

Date Title
5/26/21 Surface Transportation Markup & Committee Business Meeting Files

Speeches

Photo Galleries

Videos