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New Bill Would Block EPA From Regulating Greenhouse Gases

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Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill to curtail the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to address climate change.

The "Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017" (HR637) would amend the Clean Air Act so that:

"The term 'air pollutant' does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride."

The bill was introduced by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) and has already racked up 114 Republican co-sponsors. Palmer is a climate denier who once said that temperature data used to measure global climate change have been "falsified" and manipulated.

Palmer's latest proposal would nullify the EPA's regulation of carbon pollution, stating that "no federal agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under current law" and "no attempt to regulate greenhouse gases should be undertaken without further Congressional action."

Liz Perera, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, told Huffington Post that the resolution would make it nearly impossible for the federal government to fight climate change.

"This is the legislative equivalent of trying to ban fire trucks while your house is burning," she said, adding its sponsors "should be embarrassed for so blatantly ignoring reality and ashamed of themselves for so recklessly endangering our communities."

Furthermore, the measure contains a frightening provision saying that jobs should be prioritized over public and environmental health:

(a) In General—Before proposing or finalizing any regulation, rule, or policy, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide an analysis of the regulation, rule, or policy and describe the direct and indirect net and gross impact of the regulation, rule, or policy on employment in the United States.

(b) Limitation—No regulation, rule, or policy described in subsection (a) shall take effect if the regulation, rule, or policy has a negative impact on employment in the United States unless the regulation, rule, or policy is approved by Congress and signed by the President.

Congressman Palmer introduced a similar version of the bill in 2015 which also tried to "clarify" the definition of an air pollutant.

"The EPA has repeatedly claimed fighting climate change as justification for crafting onerous regulations that limit carbon dioxide, water vapor, and other compounds that are both essentially harmless and in fact required for life to flourish," Palmer said in 2015 statement. "This is done using statutes Congress never contemplated could be read to regulate such common and essential substances. This bill reasserts Congress's authority by prohibiting the EPA from unilaterally continuing to cause severe economic damage by regulating greenhouse gases."

Fortunately, the bill does not seem to have any legs. David Doniger, a senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program told The Guardian that HR637 does not have much of a chance breaking through a Senate filibuster as Democrats would have near-universal opposition to it and even some moderate Republican Senators would vote against it as well.

Still, many Republican lawmakers have been galvanized by Donald Trump's presidential win. Trump notoriously campaigned on slashing Obama-era environmental regulations and rolling back the EPA.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also recently proposed a measure to completely shutter the EPA. The house bill, introduced on Feb. 3., would terminate the agency by the end of 2018.

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