As a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment and Economy Subcommittee, I think it is important to keep the air we breathe and the water we drink clean while not imposing unreasonable burdens that would hurt our economy. I also believe it is important to support cleanup efforts in our community, which is why my office collaborates with local civic clubs and city partners to put on an annual cleanup and collect discarded batteries, car oil, paint, antifreeze and other recyclables.
Climate Change and Carbon Regulation
On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA held that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was legally obligated to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles could be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. If EPA made a positive finding, then it would also have to issue regulations to reduce such emissions.
On December 7, 2009, the EPA issued its endangerment finding. The finding was based on a 200-page synthesis of major scientific assessments authored by not only the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but also by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Research Council, NOAA, NASA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the CDC, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and others. EPA’s scientific basis for the finding was extensively reviewed by, among others, a group of leading scientists from federal agencies.
In May 2010, the EPA issued its “Tailoring Rule” which raised the Clean Air Act statutory thresholds to require greenhouse gas permitting only for the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions from 100/250 tons to 100,000 tons per year. This was done to ensure that regulations only hit the largest emitters in our country. In the absence of Congressional action, the EPA continues to move towards regulating carbon starting with new power plants.
With the release of the International Panel on Climate Change report, there is clear scientific consensus that human activities, and particularly the burning of fossil fuels, have increased emissions of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other trace greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
In August 2015, the EPA has released the final version of the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is a set of regulatory schemes aimed at reducing U.S. CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030. There have been a number of recent studies examining the potential impacts of EPA regulations on electric reliability. I am supportive of the EPA’s approach but will continue to monitor the implementation of the program as it moves forward. Texas faces power generation challenges and there is potential for conflict. I want to ensure the State of Texas has the flexibility necessary to meet the requirements set forth in the rule. Inaction, however, should not be an option. To ensure reliability and promote a business-friendly environment, our regulatory agencies should work toward compliance and I look forward to working with them.
The question is not whether we should or should not regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but rather how to regulate emissions with the least disruption to our economy since the U.S. Supreme Court said the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Several proposals have been debated in the Congress over the years to address climate change, including a nationwide cap and trade system and a carbon tax.
I respect the EPA’s legal authority to act on this matter, but it is my hope that Congress will pass into a law a bipartisan, comprehensive carbon control program that regulates emissions with the least disruption to our economy. A carefully crafted climate proposal can help minimize any price impacts and provide transitional assistance as we move toward a clean energy future. I also believe that a solution can be found for controlling carbon emissions by using nuclear and natural gas to generate electricity.
In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 or CERCLA in response to a growing desire for the federal government to ensure the cleanup of the nation's most contaminated sites in order to protect the public from potential harm.
Most notably, CERCLA authorized the Superfund environmental program to address abandoned hazardous waste sites and allow government officials to clean up these abandoned sites and to compel the responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government after the sites have been rehabilitated.
I am very supportive of the Superfund program and have been active in supporting the program through my position on the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. It is important that contaminated sites in our district and throughout the country are cleaned up and the individuals and entities that created these potential hazards to human health and the environment be held responsible.
Our district has one active Superfund site, U.S. Oil Recovery, near Highway 225 and Richey Street in Pasadena. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working on this site for several years and we are hopeful the cleanup will be completed soon. A list of other superfund areas in Texas and their status can be found at www.epa.gov/region6/6sf/6sf-tx.htm.
Today, rapid advances in technology mean that electronic products are becoming obsolete quicker. Shorter product life-spans, coupled with explosive sales in customer electronics, mean that more products are being discarded. Discarded computers, TVs, phones and other consumer electronics—commonly referred to as electronic waste or “e-waste”—now comprise the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in 2011, the U.S. generated over 3.4 million tons of e-waste.
The management of used electronics presents a number of significant environmental, health, and national security concerns. Much of the e-waste collected in the U.S. for alleged “recycling” or “reuse” is actually exported to developing nations. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has determined that most of these receiving countries lack the capacity to safely recycle and dispose of these discarded and used electronics. In towns like Guiyu, China, toxic e-waste is burned in open fires with no safety equipment and often by children, creating extremely toxic conditions.
Although many countries, including those in the European Union, have developed laws to address electronic waste disposal and management, the United States does not have a comprehensive national approach for the export of used electronics. In order to correct these issues, I have introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2791, the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2013, to provide the regulatory framework necessary to address this dire situation.
The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act would prohibit the export of “restricted electronic waste” to developing countries while tested and working equipment can still be exported to promote reuse, as well as other consumer electronic equipment, parts, and material derived from used electronic devices. This approach is consistent with the policy most other developed nations have already adopted. This legislation would also create a competitive grant program to promote the recovery and recycling of critical minerals and rare earth elements found in electronic waste.
H.R. 2791 would also help bring recycling jobs back to the U.S. According to a recent study by the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling, restrictions on e-waste exports could create up to 42,000 direct and indirect new jobs with a total payroll of more than $1 billion.
More on Environment
Washington, D.C. –
Washington, D.C. – In response to growing concern about the proper disposal of an increasing number of discarded consumer electronic products, Rep. Gene Green (TX-29) and Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-01) introduced H.R. 2284, The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011, to prohibit the exportation of some electronics whose improper disposal may create environmental, health, or national security risks.
Washington, DC - U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) is concerned that poisonous dioxins from the Channel’s San Jacinto Waste Pits may have spread to adjacent areas in the wake of Hurricane Ike’s storm surge that swept up the San Jacinto River beginning Sept. 13.