GOP Slams Administration's Cost of Carbon Calculations

Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 03:29 PM

By Dan Weil

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House Republicans are taking aim at the Obama administration's measurement of the cost of carbon, which is being used to justify the broad climate change plan announced by President Barack Obama in June.

Critics say the metric isn't scientifically proven and is being used as an excuse to limit fossil fuels, The Washington Times reports. The policy may even be used to justify a carbon tax on businesses, they say.

Republicans have offered at least three pieces of legislation to discard the measurement or at least greatly limit its use, according to The Times.

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California introduced a bill Wednesday to forbid the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies from utilizing cost-of-carbon figures until they have been opened to review by Congress and the public.

"The administration's track record offers no reassurances that the necessary clarity will be provided, and there's every reason to assume that efforts will be made to justify regulations with a social cost of carbon estimate that hasn't been validated or even solidly reviewed," Hunter said, according to The Times.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved an amendment from Rep. John Abney Culberson of Texas that would keep the EPA from imposing any regulation that is based on the cost-of-carbon data.

The measure also would make the agency adhere to normal rule-making procedures, including a public comment period, before the formula can be put into place.

Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania plans to introduce another bill that would require explicit congressional approval for cost-of-carbon calculations to be utilized in environmental rules.

Social cost of carbon estimates have been used for three years, but have emerged as a major issue just in the last few months. In May a group of officials from the EPA, Energy Department, and other agencies increased their social cost of carbon estimate to $35 per ton of emissions from $21.

Congress didn't get a chance to debate the hike, nor was the public able to review it.

The new figure lets the EPA claim that billions of dollars will be saved over tens of years thanks to the administration's plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other sources.

Conservatives worry that the new figure could represent the basis for a carbon tax on businesses of $35 for each ton of carbon emissions. "If it's politically impossible for them to impose an outright carbon tax, this is a way for them to achieve a lot of the same results by having it done through the regulatory process," Robert Murphy, an economist with the Institute for Energy Research, told The Times.

Republicans object to Obama's overall climate change plan for bypassing Congress.

"The American people should not be kept in the dark regarding the scope of the actions your administration is taking under the guise of controlling our climate — actions that have the potential to negatively impact employment, job creation, and our national debt," Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, wrote in a letter to the president last month.

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