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Rural Missouri Magazine

Hart to Heart

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

Last month, we told you about efforts underway to keep EPA off the backs of consumers. That issue came to a head just as electric cooperative leaders from Missouri were gathered in Jefferson City for the Missouri electric cooperatives’ State Legislative Conference.

U.S. Reps. Ike Skelton and Jo Ann Emerson — two of the best friends rural people have in Congress — attended that meeting and used the podium to announce bipartisan legislation they would co-sponsor to help protect your electric rates.

Because this legislation is so important to electric co-op members in Missouri, I offered additional space on this page to let Skelton and Emerson tell you about this issue.

To date, most of Missouri’s Congressional delegation is supporting this bill and similar measures making their way through the U.S. Senate. Electric cooperatives across the nation are calling for members to ask their legislators to support these bills.

Here in Missouri, electric cooperatives are reaching out to the grassroots on this issue, either through postcard sign-up campaigns at their annual meetings, at local events, through the pages of this publication and at www.ourenergy.coop. I encourage you to read the important information below and to learn more about this issue.

We need to support the Missouri Congressional delegation as its members work to prevent monumental increases in the price of electricity that have the potential to return us to the days when only the wealthy could afford electricity.

Please do your part and get involved.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

Congress, not EPA, should make America’s energy policy

by U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton
and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson

Rep. Ike Skelton

Anyone who needs evidence that Republicans and Democrats can still work together should look no further than our efforts to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from imposing costly greenhouse gas regulations on American families, farms and businesses.

In 1955, the Clean Air Act was enacted to get lead out of the air and reduce smog in American urban areas. This act, amended several times over the years by the U.S. Congress, was specifically designed to reduce emissions of six airborne pollutants: sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and lead. Each of these chemicals can be harmful to humans and pose a proven threat to public health.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are not listed anywhere within the legislation or its amendments. In spite of this, a 2007 Supreme Court ruling authorized EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Since then, EPA has been studying greenhouse gases and has moved aggressively to implement regulations to curb them — not just from cars and trucks, which is what the original Supreme Court case involved — but also from power plants, farms and businesses.

On Dec. 7, 2009, EPA issued a so-called “Endangerment Finding,” a report that declared greenhouse gas emissions a threat to human health and therefore subject to federal regulation pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Armed with this “finding,” EPA can legally, as defined by the Supreme Court, regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

It is clear to us that during the current administration, EPA has been particularly aggressive. They are essentially threatening Congress with an ultimatum: either rush a regulatory bill through the House and Senate or live with the consequences of the agency’s self-imposed regulations.

This choice is very troubling. Congress never explicitly authorized EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and neither carbon dioxide nor methane are identified as pollutants in any part of that act.

It seems that, rather than following the letter of the law as written by Congress, EPA has decided to interpret the law and regulate greenhouse gas emissions on its own accord. 
We have serious concerns with the powers endowed to EPA by the Supreme Court, and many people in Missouri share the same view. In fact, several rural business and agriculture organizations also have serious concerns with EPA’s proposals.

“EPA’s finding puts the agricultural economy at grave risk,” said the Missouri Cattleman’s and Soybean associations in a letter to us last week. The National Federation of Independent Business stated that “an endangerment finding . . . would trigger a regulatory avalanche . . . and impose potentially crushing regulatory burdens” on small businesses.

There is broad consensus: EPA regulations would be terribly destructive for people throughout Missouri. That is why we have joined together to stop the EPA.

In February, we introduced two bills in the House of Representatives — one to clarify that EPA does not have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases and the other to stop EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations from taking effect.

Our bills are supported by more than 175 rural business and agriculture groups across the country — including the American and Missouri Farm Bureau Federations, rural electric cooperatives and the National Federation of Independent Business — and by Republicans and Democrats in Congress. 

Our efforts to harness EPA are not an absolution from the congressional responsibility to work toward energy independence for our country. 

Rather, our bills are simply designed to eliminate EPA’s ultimatum and to prevent unelected bureaucrats, who are accountable only to an appointed EPA administrator, from determining U.S. energy and environmental law.

That is the job of Congress, which is accountable directly to the American people.

Left unchecked, EPA’s proposed regulations will certainly increase energy costs for Missouri families, farms and businesses. That is totally unacceptable, and it is why the U.S. Congress must stand up for the legislative process and stand up to EPA.

Time is of the essence, and in the days ahead we will continue building bipartisan support for our two bills. Doing so is in the best interest of Missouri and our nation.

Today, we find our nation facing daunting problems: War in the Middle East, the worst economic recession in 70 years and an increasing national budget deficit are all issues that need immediate attention.

Yet Washington, paralyzed by partisanship, seems increasingly unable to find practical solutions. Leaders seem to fixate on areas of difference and disagreement instead of common concerns and results. 

Residents of the Show-Me State know that hard work, not political rhetoric, is the answer to today’s challenges. Our bipartisan effort to stop the EPA is an example of how lawmakers can work together to generate meaningful, needed results.

Cooperation and compromise are needed in Washington now more than ever, and we will continue working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to overcome the challenges currently facing our nation.

There is no other way to proceed.

Skelton represents Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Emerson represents Missouri’s 8th Congressional District.

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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