Boxer opposes House GOP move to stall EPA rules

San Francisco, CA (September 22, 2011)

California Sen. Barbara Boxer declared war Wednesday on an effort by House Republicans to roll back environmental regulations, warning that blocking the plan in the Democratic-controlled Senate is no sure thing.

The House is set to vote Friday on legislation that would delay an Environmental Protection Agency rule to require 27 states that rely heavily on coal-fired electricity generation to reduce power-plant emissions that drift into other states, and another rule that would limit mercury and other pollution from coal-fired plants. Both rules would step up enforcement of the 1970 Clean Air Act.

House GOP leaders plan weekly votes throughout the fall on rules they blame for widespread unemployment. The bills are part of an antiregulation campaign that, with deficit reduction and tax cuts, constitute the Republican recipe for reviving the economy. The U.S. Chamber of Congress and other business groups are backing the effort.

"Every single area of environmental protection is under Republican assault in the House, bar none," said Boxer, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Although the White House on Wednesday issued a veto threat against the House bill, HR2401, Boxer said she did not want to allow any of the Republican regulation efforts to reach President Obama's desk.

In the last month, the Obama administration infuriated environmental groups by backing away from two major regulations to control ozone and greenhouse gas pollution. In shelving the ozone rule, the White House cited "regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty" that would impose too many costs on a weak economy.

Boxer said she "disagreed strongly" with the administration's decision on ozone. Although Democrats control the Senate, she suggested that they may not remain unified on air pollution rules. Many Democrats represent states that produce coal or rely on coal-fired power plants.

"We face a determined bloc of Republicans and perhaps a few Democrats" who favor rolling back environmental rules, Boxer said.

She led a news conference attended by representatives of the American Lung Association and groups that favor tougher air pollution rules, a family with a child who suffers from asthma and former Cincinnati Bengals player Ickey Woods, whose son died of an asthma attack last year at age 16.

Boxer worried that Senate Republicans might also try to attach regulatory rollbacks to unrelated bills, such as a huge, must-pass spending bill that might have a better chance at passage than a stand-alone bill.

Boxer was unable to enact climate-change legislation when Democrats held a filibuster-proof Senate majority, but she has proven adept at blocking legislation. She recalled battles in the 1990s against then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, whom she said "waged the same kind of war on the environment and we won it."