GHG Regs Avoid Ax in 11th Hour Budget Deal

by | Apr 11, 2011

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on greenhouse gas emissions appear to have escaped the hatchet in federal budget negotiations.

Democrats and Republicans came to a tentative consensus on the budget shortly before 11 p.m. on Friday night, averting the government shutdown that was due to start just over an hour later.

The parties agreed on broad terms to fund the government for the next six months, and Democrats said that the agreement did not include Republicans’ sought-after provision to limit EPA regulations on greenhouse gases (GHGs), the New York Times reported.

But the agreement to cut $38 billion over the next six months must still be written down and put to a vote, NPR reports.

The GHG regulations proved a sticking point, along with abortion funding, as budget negotiations went down to the wire on Friday. On the final day of negotiations, Democrats had considered commissioning a study of the impact that EPA regulations have on the economy, as a concession to Republicans. This idea was dropped, Business Green reports.

GHG regulations have become a frequent political target in recent weeks and months.

Last Thursday the House of Representatives voted 255-172 for a bill that rejects the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health. Those voting for the bill included 19 Democrats.

The bill is not expected to pass the Senate, but its supporters say the strength of support for the measure sends a message to the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, four measures designed to restrict the EPA’s regulatory powers over greenhouse gases all failed in the Senate. But 17 Democrats broke with the president to vote for one or more measures.

A budget bill approved by the house in February included provisions to defund environmental regulations.

A 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, obliged the EPA to determine whether carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA declared that GHGs do indeed pose that threat.

The agency has since ordered states to begin issuing GHG permits to big emitters such as oil refineries, coal-burning power plants, cement factories and glass makers. Those rules took effect January 2, although the EPA decided to defer application of the GHG rules to biomass facilities for three years, and states have struggled with the federal government over the permitting process..

The EPA plans to propose GHG emissions limits this year, and finalize the rules next year, Reuters has reported. In the meantime, large emitters and fuel suppliers must report their 2010 GHG data to the EPA by September 30, 2011.

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