PDF _ RL33776 - Clean Air Issues in the 110th Congress:Climate Change, Air Quality Standards, and Oversight
28-Jul-2008; James E. McCarthy; 36 p.

Update: Previous releases:
June 3, 2008
March 7,2008
October 19, 2007
July 12, 2007
April 4, 2007

Abstract: Attention to environmental issues in the 110th Congress focused early and heavily on climate change — the state of the science, and whether (and, if so, how) to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Fourteen bills had been introduced to establish GHG emission caps as of April 2008, and hearings on climate change have been held by at least 10 committees. The Lieberman-Warner bill to establish a capand- trade system for GHG emissions (S. 2191) was reported by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, May 20, 2008. Senate debate began on a modified version of the bill (S. 3036) June 2.

Climate change hearings and markup have been among the highest priorities for the committees that have jurisdiction over air issues (principally Senate Environment and Public Works and House Energy and Commerce). Other clean air issues have not been the main focus of attention, but many are being addressed, especially through oversight of Administration actions. Oversight issues include:

  • how best to control emissions of mercury and other pollutants from electric power plants;
  • whether EPA’s new standards for ambient air concentrations of fine particulates and ozone and a proposed standard for lead adequately reflect the state of the science;
  • and
  • whether the EPA’s new process for setting ambient air quality standards politicizes what traditionally have been scientific judgments.
In addition to EPA, state governments and the courts have taken action on air issues that has stirred congressional interest. On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court decided Massachusetts v. EPA, finding that EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles and requiring EPA to make a finding as to whether such emissions endanger public health or welfare. On February 8, 2008, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Jersey v. EPA, found EPA’s approach to the regulation of power plant mercury emissions to be unlawful. Other cases involving climate change, clean air standards, and the regulation of power plants are pending at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and in a number of federal and state courts. Decisions in these cases may prompt hearings or legislation. In addition, states interested in setting more stringent environmental standards are continuing to develop and implement regulations that go well beyond the requirements of federal law. Of particular interest is California’s request for a waiver of federal preemption to control greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. On December 19, 2007, EPA announced that it would deny the waiver request, and the agency’s Administrator signed a decision document February 29, 2008. California and more than a dozen other states are challenging the denial in court, and legislation has been introduced in both the Senate (S. 2555) and the House (H.R. 5560) to overturn the Administrator’s decision.

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Topics: Air, Climate Change, Legislative

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