That didn't take long.
Republican Congressional Representative Fred Upton (Michigan -- pictured), the new head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that he would entertain legislation aimed at blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from passing regulations on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Upton's comments drew a quick response from Barbara Boxer, the four-term Senator from California."I want to tell him that I will use every tool available to me...to oppose any legislative effort that threatens the health or safety or well-being of the American people," said Boxer. "That includes his desire to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying out its responsibilities under the Clean Air Act."The EPA determined that greenhouse gases were hazardous to human health in December 2009, giving the agency the power to regulate them even without carbon taxation legislation. California has a greenhouse gas law that survived a challenge at the ballot box this past fall. Massachusetts recently outlined a greenhouse gas reduction plan. Besides Upton, Darrell Issa (R.-California) has been asking business leaders to identify regulations they'd like to see overturned, according to the New York Times, while Texas Representative Joe Barton wants to overturn the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which included a provision for energy-efficient lighting. He has a particular distaste for
"the little, squiggly, pig-tailed" bulbs known as CFLs.
The odds of a provision sponsored by Upton actually passing in the next few years are somewhat low. Democrats, still in control of the Senate, would likely sink such a bill, and even if something slipped through, President Obama would veto it.
But it could make for handy political theater for some of the more conservative or anti-environmental members of Congress. Upton and his supporters could claim we live in a dictatorship because the President has refused to endorse a bill approved by one-half of one of the three branches of the federal government. You know, the old one-sixth majority rule.
In all seriousness, the fight over the EPA's powers will likely be a visible and protracted one. Even if he has the votes and power to block the bill, the President will likely need to line up business leaders and utility executives to convince wavering voters of the gravity and economic benefits of carbon regulations.
Luckily, there are a number of execs and political leaders -- GE's Jeff Immelt, PG&E's Peter Darbee, former Secretary of State George Schultz -- who support carbon regulations.