Farm organizations are welcoming the decisions of the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee to support a Senate resolution opposing EPA’s plan to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act.
A total of 138 commodity and agricultural organizations have signed a letter circulated by the National Cotton Council that endorsed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. The resolution was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have agreed to cosponsor the Murkowski resolution and offered their support for legislation to block EPA’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gases under an endangerment ruling.
“I support the goals of curbing greenhouse gases, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and advancing clean energy technologies,” Lincoln said. “However, we must achieve these goals responsibly by finding a balanced solution that is good for the environment and good for the economy.
“Heavy-handed EPA regulation, as well as the current cap and trade bills in Congress, will cost us jobs and put us at an even greater competitive disadvantage to China, India and others. Arkansans, and the American public, want Congress to take a breath, slow down and thoughtfully come up with energy policy that makes common sense and will help grow our economy.”
In their letter, the agricultural groups noted that the current and past administrations have acknowledged that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle for establishing greenhouse gas policy.
An EPA finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare will trigger CAA regulatory actions such as application of national ambient air quality standards, new source performance standards, and provisions of the prevention of significant deterioration and Title V programs, essentially establishing greenhouse gas policy through the CAA by default.
“An endangerment finding will trigger numerous regulatory actions,” said NCC Chairman Jay Hardwick, a cotton producer from Newellton, La. “The costs of compliance would be overwhelming as millions of entities, including farms and ranches, would be subject to burdensome, time-consuming and costly regulations.
“EPA has acknowledged the overwhelming economic burden by proposing to apply the regulations only to large sources of emissions. It is widely expected that this ‘tailoring rule’ will be challenged in court and could be revoked.”
The NCC chairman notes the EPA rule claims only a weak, indirect link between greenhouse gases and public health and welfare and cites uncertainties over the net, direct health impacts of the greenhouse gases it is attempting to regulate.
“CAA regulations for greenhouse gases, if imposed across the board, will impose a huge economic cost on U.S. industries and farms and ranches — including U.S. cotton farmers — by increasing energy and input costs and rendering U.S. cotton and products uncompetitive in international markets,” Hardwick said.
“China and India, two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, continue to reject any verifiable reduction measures. Without an effective international agreement on emission reductions, unilateral action by the U.S. damages our economy and encourages businesses to relocate overseas.”
The Murkowski-introduced “resolution of disapproval,” if passed, will repeal EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, preventing EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
A resolution of disapproval is a provision of the Congressional Review Act which allows Congress to review every new federal regulation issued by government agencies. The resolution cannot be amended or filibustered in the Senate but there is no similar “fast-track” process in the House. The resolution requires presidential approval.
Other crops and agricultural enterprises would also be affected. “The climate change regulations proposed by EPA would severely harm rice production in Arkansas,” said Ben Noble, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Federation. “The regulations would put Arkansas farmers, merchants and millers at a severe disadvantage with foreign rice, giving our international competition a leg up.”
Arkansas Rice Producers Group Chairman Gary Sebree thanked Lincoln for “continuing to be an advocate for the thousands of people who work directly in the rice industry in Arkansas. As the leading rice-producing state, Arkansas would be harmed most by the latest proposed climate change regulations.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said Lincoln’s support for Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval could not have come at a better time.
“Sen. Lincoln recognizes the very real apprehension that Americans today harbor about the overreach of government regulations,” he said. “America’s farmers and ranchers believe incentives and initiatives that focus on clean energy would be much more effective.
“Cap-and-trade climate bills would cut deeply into America’s ability to produce food and grow crops. Trying to breathe life into bad cap-and-trade legislation through an all-stick-and-no-carrot regulatory scheme is just bad public policy. In this case, there is no lesser of those two evils.”