Sentiment against the Environmental Protection Agency is running high among Republicans in the House of Representatives, where GOP legislators have pushed to pass or introduced measures that would restrict EPA's ability to move forward with key water and air regulations.
Environmental advocates have cried foul, but construction industry officials say many of the EPA rules could stall construction projects. They also say the Republicans are merely responding to businesses' legitimate worries.
Steve Hall, the American Council of Engineering Cos. vice president of government affairs, says, “I think Congress is sensitive to [business] concerns. [Business] affects the economy; it affects jobs.” But Hall acknowledges the measures face an uphill battle in the Senate.
The GOP-backed measures include the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, which the House passed on July 13 by a 239-134 vote. The bill would curb EPA's ability to overrule state water-quality decisions.
The GOP is plumping for another measure, which cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee on July 12, that would prevent EPA from enacting rules to trim mercury emissions from powerplants and mitigate pollution in states downwind until comprehensive economic-impact analyses are completed.
Environmental groups find the current mood in the House “unfriendly” to their interests, says Shelley Vinyard, Environment America air-toxins advocate. “They're trying to handcuff EPA and prevent EPA from doing critical work,” she says. Vinyard points to the fiscal 2012 Interior-Environment appropriations bill, which has nearly 40 anti-EPA riders and slashes EPA's funding 18% from 2011 levels. It cleared committee on July 13.
Hall says most of the House measures are unlikely to survive in the Senate. He notes that several House-supported, anti-EPA riders were included in the 2011 continuing resolution but dropped during final negotiations with the Senate.
Jeff Shoaf, the Associated General Contractors senior executive director of government and public affairs, says the aggressive tactics favored by some Republicans, particularly on the Interior/EPA spending bill, could backfire. According to Shoaf, “Because there is no willingness to negotiate, Republicans are missing an opportunity to have an impact by using riders because they may never get a bill to conference.”