When climate change legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate, the Obama Administration announced a Plan B - to let the Environmental Protection Agency cap U.S. emissions. That has drawn full fledged opposition from several fronts. The latest move to block that came late last week as Senator John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a bill that would put a two-year freeze on EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants.
Rockefeller's legislation would not affect EPA's plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. But it would prevent the agency from implementing - or even doing much work on - caps on emissions from such "stationary sources" as power plants and factories. Experts say the bill could postpone regulations for as much as four years.
EPA issued a written statement that it's reviewing the new bill that would freeze EPA stationary source greenhouse gas rules for two years while Congress works on climate legislation. Rockefeller's bill would not overturn EPA's so-called endangerment finding as would other House and Senate measures by both parties.
That has ag and ethanol leaders, like Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, thinking there could be a breakthrough in EPA's stand-off with Congress before EPA triggers a rash of regulations starting the end of this month.
"It sounds like a softening of the position by EPA," Buis said. "So on the surface of it maybe EPA is looking for some resolution for the controversial issue."
Agriculture and other small emitters would be covered by the lower-threshold required under the Clean Air Act. Now Buis senses the Obama Administration may be looking for a way out of a contentious fight with Democrats and Republicans in an election year.
"I think the conventional wisdom is that cap-and-trade is going nowhere," Buis said. "That is not going to move under any circumstances, so I'm sure there's people in all camps on how to com up with something that could accommodate all interests."
The Administration has ratcheted up pressure on Congress with its plans to move ahead on greenhouse gas rules, starting with mobile source rules Mar. 31. But Buis sees the latest statement by EPA as a good sign that the two sides are at last starting to talk. Buis says Congress, not EPA, needs to solve the climate change dilemma.
"We're hoping Congress steps in does the common sense solution rather than letting this finding by EPA to move forward," Buis said.
Buis warns that unless Congress acts the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling on greenhouse gases still gives EPA authority to regulate them as dangerous pollutants.