Months have passed since the Senate trio took up the task of cobbling together a climate bill that everyone might agree on. However, as details continue to be revealed about the draft legislation, many an eyebrow is being raised over certain provisions that could prove a step backward for environmental protection.
In wide-sweeping attempts to court business interests and Senate moderates, the legislation cuts back on the power of other regulatory entities – like the EPA and state governments. Lindsay Graham told Politico:
“I wouldn’t support EPA regulation on top of congressional action, and I couldn’t support 50 states coming up with their own standards,” he said. “That’s one thing business legitimately needs.”
Environmental activists have long been prepared for a disappointing, compromise-ridden bill – but the common wisdom has always been “something is better than nothing.” The danger now is that this bill, as written, would actually do more harm than good.
Much to the chagrin of polluting companies, the Environmental Protection Agency has been extremely effective in cleaning up our air and water. Air quality has improved tremendously since the agency was established in 1970, as the American Enterprise Institute unwittingly pointed out.
Congress, on the other hand, has a long history of pandering to the oil and coal lobbies, among others. Considering that any bill that comes out of Congress is bound to be riddled with loopholes, the regulatory power of the EPA would probably be the only hope for making sure businesses truly cut down on their carbon emissions. A number of green groups, including 1Sky and Sierra Club, are pressuring lawmakers to uphold the regulatory authority of the EPA.
Another huge blow would be dealt by restricting state and local governments which, up to now, have been responsible for the most ambitious climate action this country has seen. More than 20 states currently participate in regional cap-and-trade programs, and many states have employed renewable energy standards to promote clean energy. Pending legislation would block these programs, likely forcing many states to accept far lower carbon caps.
This is what happens when you try to write a clean energy and climate bill and invite oil and gas companies to the table.