Senators sparred Wednesday over the effectiveness and legality of President Obama’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international climate agreement later this year.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Obama’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025 “is not only unrealistic, it does not add up.” He cited an analysis from a former Sierra Club climate expert who said the actions pursued by Obama — including regulations on everything from power plants to cars and trucks — would fall well short of his goal.
Inhofe also questioned whether the Obama administration has the right to enter into an international climate treaty and pursue further greenhouse gas reductions without congressional approval. He suggested a future presidential administration might be able to undo what Obama commits to accomplish during the talks.
“If they were to find a way to do something without ratification, without Congress’s input, wouldn’t the next administration be in the same position to undo anything that was done?” he said at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Wednesday.
The United Nations is hosting a climate conference in Paris this December with the goal of reaching a landmark agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Congressional Republicans have warned that the United States may not be able to reach the goals Obama has so far set out, and if he were to go to Congress asking for more help to do so, he wouldn’t get it.
“There is no public support or congressional support that would ratify that,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said.
But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that doesn’t matter, because the Clean Air Act gives the Obama administration the right to institute climate policies on its own.
“I believe this is achievable because the president’s climate action plan contains the tools to get it done, even without Congress,” she said. “The bottom line is, we have the Clean Air Act.”
Republicans pushed back on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to institute their new emissions rules under current law, noting recent Supreme Court decisions, including one last week that said the agency has gone too far in some of its rule-making.
On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the court’s rulings were narrow and shouldn’t impact the Obama administration’s biggest emissions strategies, including the Clean Power Plan regulations on power plants due out this summer.