WASHINGTON - The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved a bill to strip the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California of the power to limit tailpipe emissions and other greenhouse gases.
Republicans sent the bill to the full House, which is likely to vote on it in the coming weeks. But it faces an uphill road in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and is strongly opposed by the Obama administration.
"We should not put the U.S. economy in a straightjacket because of a theory that hasn't been proven," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, referring to the purported link between emissions and global warming.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, noted that Michigan lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the last three years. He argued the bill would prevent new regulations from costing additional jobs.
But Democrats said the bill would make America further dependent on foreign oil, thereby "funding our enemies" in hostile, oil-producing countries, said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
The measure would supersede a 2007 Supreme Court decision giving the EPA authority to regulate tailpipe emissions as a danger to public health under the Clean Air Act.
The ruling allowed California to impose its own tailpipe emissions limits. The prospect of a patchwork of separate state and federal emissions limits has been harshly criticized by automakers.
In the wake of the decision, the Obama administration reached a deal with California and automakers in May 2009 to set nationwide standards for the 2012-16 model years that will hike fleet-wide fuel efficiency to 34.1 mpg by 2016. The deal essentially extended California's proposed standards nationwide, but gave automakers additional flexibility in early years.
California's standards were adopted by a dozen other states.
The pact will cost the auto industry about $52 billion over five years, but save 1.8 billion barrels of fuel over the life of the vehicles. The Obama administration says it would save $3,000 per vehicle in gas over the life of the vehicles.
The administration is working on the 2017-2025 regulations and California is also working on its own proposal. Both proposals are to be issued in September.
The administration is considering annual 3 to 6 percent increases during that time frame, which would require a fleet-wide average of 47 to 62 mpg by 2025.
The Republican bill would bar EPA from taking part in setting future standards — and would bar California from limiting tailpipe emissions.
Instead, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have sole authority to set Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.
"No longer will the EPA or the state of California be able to overrule NHTSA," Upton said.
Republican authors of the bill argue that it would not overturn the 2012-16 fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions standards, but Democrats disagree.