Climate bill spurs concern
by Dustin Pangonis | Staff Writer
June 22, 2009
As House Democrats prep for a possible vote on a climate change bill this week, they risk losing the votes of party members from rural districts, like U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17, as they begin to disagree with the Obama administration’s stance.
“I have grave concerns about where the administration is going on climate change,” Holden said in a telephone interview Saturday.
U.S. Rep Dennis Cardoza, D-18, California, has said the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency “(doesn’t) get rural America,” and when it comes to climate change, Holden said he agrees.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, HR 2454, was recently approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Holden said there may be a vote this week.
The bill would establish regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, and Holden said he plans to vote against it because of its effects on the coal industry.
“We have a 250 year supply of coal,” Holden said. “We should not make it public enemy No. 1.”
John W. Rich Jr., president of Waste Management & Processors Inc., Gilberton, said he supports Holden’s position.
“Not only do I feel I’m being attacked, I feel we’re being attacked and big oil’s being protected. Oil puts out more C02 than the coal industry,” Rich said in a telephone interview Saturday.
For more than a decade, Rich has been trying to draw upon the county’s waste coal reserves to start a coal-to-oil plant.
Holden said he is committed to coal-to-liquid plants and developing the local coal industry.
“I have more cogeneration plants in my congressional district that any district in the country. They’re good jobs,” Holden said. “I’ve made my leadership aware of this concern, and I just don’t agree with where they’re going.”
Rich said he has faced repeated problems in attaining proper funding, as well as a lack of government support.
“The whole concept behind the cap and trade is minimum climate change,” Rich said. “I just can’t imagine how carbon dioxide, which makes up less than one-third of one percent of the atmosphere, could be the culprit.”
Figures on the NASA Web site put carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere between .01 and .1 percent.
“No one seems to know that, by the way. It seems to be a deep dark secret,” Rich said.
Instead, Rich said, the focus should be on reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Holden said other countries should be implementing the same standards as America.
“I believe if we’re going to do anything we have to do it as the world, not just as the U.S., where there are (no regulations) for China and India,” Holden said.
Farm lobbyists and rural Democrats are also worried that limits on greenhouse gas emissions will increase costs for farmers.
As the result of a Supreme Court ruling, Holden said, the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. He’d prefer to see the Department of Agriculture take on that role.
“The members on the Agricultural Committee are rural members,” Holden said. “We’ve been expressing concerns for the climate change bill since day one.”