First of Two EPA Hearings on Greenhouse Gas Regulation
As Washington fluttered with climate change action yesterday, actor and environmental campaigner Pierce Brosnan added some star power to a public hearing at the Environmental Protection Agency about greenhouse gas emissions. But Brosnan said nothing about the hearing's topic, the endangerment finding that could mean regulations over emissions sources under the Clean Air Act. Instead, he praised Washington's alternate approach to climate change, the Waxman-Markey bill, which is getting a (slow) mark-up on Capitol Hill this week. Video below...
Brosnan and wife Keeley Shaye Smith with their hydrogen car
"Climate change is not simply an environmental issue," said Brosnan, who used to play James Bond and who appeared with his wife Keeley Shaye Smith. "It's an economic, global, health national security and moral issue. Congressman Markey and Waxman's bill will help protect our planet... I urge you to do everything you possibly can to help achieve this."
Pierce Brosnan at EPA headquarters, Washington, D.C. Courtesy National Wildlife Federation
Start of Huge Climate Week
But star power wasn't needed. Yesterday was a veritable parade of serious policies to address climate change in Washington. On top of the EPA hearings and the Congress mark-up, the White House stepped up with a long-awaited approach that could impact the other policies: California-style fuel-economy and emissions standards for automobiles that amount to "the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions."
EPA vs. Congress
EPA regulations are seen as a last resort option by President Obama and EPA chief Lisa Jackson, both of whom prefer Congressional legislation.
But some supporters of the EPA finding emphasized that regulations should be undertaken regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill.
"We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions now without further delay and without waiting for a perfect solution," said Navis Bermudez, speaking on behalf of New York Gov. David A. Paterson, according to the Associated Press.
"While we also hope that Congress enacts comprehensive federal climate change legislation, we believe EPA can act now under the existing Clean Air Act without waiting for such legislation."
Opponents, of which there were few, reports Sierra Club, voiced their concerns too, echoing the criticism by lawmakers that regulation would prove too complex and would interfere with attempts by Congress to legislate over carbon emissions.
Bryan Brendle, director of energy and resources policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, testified that the Clean Air Act was ill-suited to deal with the global problem of climate change and would "pre-empt ongoing congressional debate on an issue that would impact all sectors of a struggling economy."
Others meanwhile see regulation as the EPA's threat to Congress: kill the Waxman-Markey bill and we're going to have to do this the hard way.
"If Congress does nothing, then greenhouse gases could be regulated administratively through the EPA without input from members that represent diverse constituencies nationwide," Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, said in Congress yesterday.
If the House bill passes, its cap-and-trade scheme to lower greenhouse gas emissions would pre-empt the EPA from forcing industries to reduce their emissions.
Discussion on the 932-page bill, which the House Energy committee intends to vote on by the end of the week, is currently being dragged-out by Republicans who are raising a slew of amendments.
More than a hundred people signed up to testify at the EPA hearing, including environmentalists, scientists, religious leaders and climate change skeptics.
Another hearing on the EPA's finding is scheduled for Thursday, May 21, in Seattle.