A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce will start to hear testimony next week from witnesses on how to improve the Clean Air Act, which was written in 1970 and amended in 1990 under Presidents Nixon and Bush.
Beyond the clean air act, lawmakers will also review the Brownsfield program that cleans up polluted lands.
The Subcommittee on Environment, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), today announced in a statement a hearing for Thursday, February 16, 2017. The hearing is entitled, “Modernizing Environmental Laws: Challenges and Opportunities for Expanding Infrastructure and Promoting Development and Manufacturing.”
Members of the subcommittee said they will examine methods for expanding infrastructure, economic redevelopment, and manufacturing through the modernization of certain environmental laws that fall under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, including the Clean Air Act and the Brownfields provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
“In previous Congresses we’ve looked at ways that we can modernize and update certain laws to ensure more efficient, cost-effective environmental protections, while promoting innovation and more affordable goods and services,” said Chairman Shimkus, in a statement. “Next week’s hearing will provide our members an opportunity to consider practical reforms to promote the expansion of domestic infrastructure and manufacturing.”
This discussion, of course, is occurring in the broader context — one where President Trump has vowed to rollback environmental laws, saying that as currently written, they are strangling business. One of the biggest targets is the Clean Power Plan enacted by the Obama administration that aims to cut carbon emissions by 32% by 2030.
Already, lawmakers in the US House have discussed the “Make Environmental Protection Great Again” by, in effect, ensuring the success of the “Secret Science Reform Act” — a process that would weaken the agency and would be tantamount to transferring its regulatory powers to the states.
“How can EPA be sure that is relying upon the best available science when the scientific and technical information used to support its actions cannot be identified and made available to the public?” asks Jeff Holmstead, partner in the law firm of Bracewell, in testimony this week before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Critics of that proposal say that would actually prevent large scale scientific studies from being used to craft regulation, given that such analyses can’t be reproduced. To do so would be an expensive undertaking, or $250 million over the next few years, says the Congressional Budget Office.
The Office of Management and Budget added that between 2001 and 2011 that the benefits of EPA’s regulations far exceeded the actual costs: $141 billion to $691 billion in benefits compared to $42 billion and $66 billion in costs.
Beyond looking at regulations and their cost, Trump and the Congress are expected to use the Congressional Review Act that allows for the tossing of rules in the waning days of administration; to do so requires a simple majority, which makes any such measures filibuster proof. Along those lines, the White House and the Republican leadership are looking several tied and specifically those tied to pollution from coal and natural gas.