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Why Did Democrats Join the Anti-EPA Bill? Election 2012, Stupid

Lawmakers who voted this week to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions talk a lot about a power-hungry government agency hell bent on killing jobs and ruining the economy with its overreaching policy initiatives. More than a dozen Democrats, who apparently feel strongly about reining in this extreme abuse of power, joined their Republican counterparts. Nevermind, that the EPA hasn't made any final rules and doesn't expect to until 2012.

But wait, could there be another reason behind this spirit of bipartisanship? The NYT via Greenwire tosses out one awfully suspicious coincidence.

Nineteen moderate and conservative Democrats joined 236 Republicans in supporting the bill, which was sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Not coincidentally, some had close calls during last year's Republican wave, and most are significant GOP targets in this election cycle.
Hmmm. So this fight, which aims to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act is over job security? Well, not entirely. It's also about business. Specifically, big industry wants to keep its business costs in check. They fear that the EPA will impose regulations so severe that costs will skyrocket, leading to smaller profit margins or even losses. Instead, they argue the job of regulating greenhouse gas emissions should fall to the trustworthy Congress, not the dubious group of job-killing government workers over at the EPA.

Their fear is well grounded. The EPA is much harder to control than lawmakers who rely on political contributions. There's a reason industrialists David and Charles Koch donated $279,500 to the majority of Republicans and even a few Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As BNET blogger Alain Sherter notes, the anti-EPA emissions provision is only one of a slew of amendments attached to the federal spending bill by House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans that have nothing to do with balancing the budget. There are nearly 20 policy riders aimed at blocking the EPA from issuing new regulations on emissions from mercury, arsenic and other byproducts of coal combustion, not to mention limits on regulating mountaintop mining and a narrowly tailored measure that would prevent the EPA from revoking a permit for a mine owned by Arch Coal (ACI).

What the EPA plans to do
Last December, the EPA announced it would issue what it called "modest" sets of standards for power plants and refineries, which together are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. The rules will be proposed this year and finalized in 2012. The aim is to create an emissions standard, not a carbon cap.

Still that worries big industry and the attack against the EPA has been at full throttle ever since the midterm elections gave Republicans control of the House. The latest news from Dems is the EPA provision has been taken off the table. But until a final deal is reached anything is possible. And regardless of the outcome, the anti-EPA effort isn't going to end anytime soon.

Photo from Flickr user senor codo, CC 2.0

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