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Koch Industries: Behind the Fight to Gut the EPA

While President Obama laid out his support for some "sensible" regulation during his friendly overture to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week, big industry continued to push for something quite the opposite. Their first target is the EPA.

Companies and business groups as well as some lawmakers have sought to strip the EPA of its regulatory authority for some time. But since the midterm election, that effort has picked up considerable speed and backing from industry behemoths like Koch Industries that hope to influence the debate. Koch Industries were major contributors during the 2010 election and donated $279,500 to 22 of the committee's 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats, the LA Times reported. Their efforts appear to be paying off:

The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington's political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Why the House Energy and Commerce Committee? Koch Industries and other like-minded folk in big industry are deeply opposed to any efforts to regulate greenhouse gases -- an authority the U.S. Supreme Court says resides with the EPA. The effort to strip away some of that authority begins with this particular committee. Not so coincidentally, nine of the 12 new Republicans on the committee have signed a pledge distributed by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-founded organization, to oppose efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, according to the LA Times.

Since then the committee, headed by Rep. Fred Upton, has wasted little time getting to work. EPA chief Lisa Jackson is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the committee for a hearing on legislation to block EPA's power. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked for business and industry groups to identify government rules they consider burdensome. The submissions, which he released Monday, predominantly complain about EPA regulations.

Issa has been empowered in his effort, ironically by Obama, who last month launched a review to weed out and eliminate outdated regulations or ones that place an unreasonable burden on business. Obama's review was meant to identify those old and outdated regulations that no longer make sense, not to end its own regulatory proposals on greenhouse gas. Of course, that hasn't stopped lawmakers and industry from going after the EPA.

The effort to hamstring the EPA has moved to the courts as well. In this case, the GOP and the Obama administration find themselves on the same side, although for different reasons. Three Congressional GOP members filed a brief late Monday with the Supreme Court that asks the justices to overturn a lower court ruling that allowed several states and environmental groups to sue utilities over their emissions, the NYT reported. The Obama administration has taken the same position, but argues it's because the White House is already working on the emissions issue and doesn't need the court to intervene.

Photo from Flickr user Señor Coda , CC 2.0

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