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The GOP takes their war on regulating greenhouse gases to the budget.

February 10, 2011

Last week, the latest in the Republican Party’s efforts to speed the heat-death of our planet was a series of bills that would strip the EPA of its SCOTUS-approved right to regulate greenhouse gases. But that’s old news: Republicans (and some Democrats) have been threatening to reverse the work of Massachusetts v. EPA ever since it was decided. This week, now in control of Congress’ purse strings, they’ve come out with something newer: actual, substantive proposals to hamstring the EPA and other federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by de-funding.

Yesterday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) released a list of proposed cuts in response to President Obama’s budget request. The Washington Post computes that the $1.6 billion cut to EPA entails a 17 percent cut to the agency, plus dramatic cuts to energy efficiency, renewable energy, high-speed rail, and other programs that would help the U.S.’ overall climate change efforts. According to Climate Wire, in addition to the general $1.6 billion cut to EPA, the Republicans’ proposal specifically targets some of the agency’s clean air programs for additional cuts, such as “$9 million from EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting registry, $25 million from EPA state and local air quality management and $5 million from EPA’s cap-and-trade technical assistance program.”

The details of the proposal haven’t been released yet, but Rogers went on to announce today that, somehow or other, the Appropriations Committee intends to eventually make even deeper cuts, totaling $100 billion (in line with the Republican “Pledge to America”).

The Hill suggests that we might see a political fight over a possible floor amendment targeting the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases, “either through a funding limitation or outright removal of the agency’s authority.” Meanwhile, Republicans are simultaneously pooh-poohing the (frighteningly free market friendly!) idea of abolishing costly subsidies to the oil industry while playing down the notion that they are trying to gut the Clean Air Act – even if that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

What explains this apparent inconsistency? (Surely, not any ideological bankruptcy on the part of the Republican Party, right?) Maybe, despite their pretensions of fiscal hawk demagoguery, the Republicans are trying to achieve some electoral cover, since their constituents overwhelmingly prefer that EPA be allowed to do its job – at least as long as Congress isn’t passing a renewables-friendly energy bill.

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