HELENA - U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said Thursday he has joined 150 fellow House members in cosponsoring a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, which are seen as the chief cause of global warming.
"This decision (by the EPA) means the federal government now has the authority to regulate everything from carbon dioxide to water vapor," Rehberg said in a statement. "This is an effort to pour concrete into the gears of an economic recovery."
The EPA last year declared six greenhouse gases to be pollutants subject to Clean Air Act regulation, and began its own rulemaking progress to regulate them. Unless Congress acts to block the EPA initiative, the rules could be issued as soon as March, state environmental officials have said.
The greenhouse gases to be regulated include carbon dioxide, but not water vapor.
Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the EPA has never proposed to regulate water vapor.
"If that were true, then Denny Rehberg and a lot of people like myself probably would have been fined by the EPA," Opper said Thursday.
However, the bill co-sponsored by Rehberg does explicitly prohibit the EPA from declaring water vapor to be a pollutant, as well as the six greenhouse gases that EPA is preparing to regulate.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have prepared a similar legislative action.
The bill cosponsored by Rehberg was introduced a year ago by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. It has 151 cosponsors.
Rehberg officially signed on last month. The bill has been languishing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; supporters have filed a petition attempting to bypass the committee.
Rehberg also has been a vocal opponent of Democratic initiatives to address global warming and greenhouse gas emissions through so-called cap-and-trade legislation, saying it will hamstring the U.S. economy by taxing carbon emissions.
On Thursday, he said the EPA's move to regulated greenhouse gases is "an end-around on the American people. The EPA works for us, not the other way around."
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at at 1-800-525-4920 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.