'Power Grab' Concerns Heat Up over Climate Change

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WASHINGTON - Some in Congress are claiming the Obama administration is making an unconstitutional power grab.

Concerned lawmakers say Obama administration bureaucrats are using global warming fears to start regulating greenhouse gases, without any control by Congress. They worry such a move will send energy costs soaring and halt the economy's recovery.

At the heart of the clash is who should control efforts to fight climate change -- or whether there should be any control.

The Environmental Protection Agency sides with those who believe man-made greenhouse gases could lead to dangerous global warming. The agency plans to start regulating them as soon as possible.

Last year, Congress failed to pass a bill that would have capped greenhouse gas emissions. Some in Congress say that should have been the end of the matter and that the EPA shouldn't be acting on its own.

"The administration...EPA...is trying to regulate what they were unable to legislate," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of House Energy and Commerce Committee, told CBN News.

Unconstitutional Power Grab?

Upton worries the EPA slapping regulations on industries could cause their costs to soar and cripple the economic recovery.

"It could have a very severe impact on job growth in America," he complained. "In fact, some studies show that we could actually lose up to half a million jobs."

Upton has labeled the EPA plan to start regulating greenhouse gasses "an unconstitutional power grab."

Tim Phillips, president of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, agrees.

He argues that under the founding fathers' carefully designed system of checks and balances, executive branch bureaucracies were never meant to be free of congressional control.

"They did not mean for un-elected, unaccountable bureaucracies to be out there unilaterally doing what they wanted to do," Phillips explained.

But David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center and a former EPA official, said the Supreme Court ruled the EPA has to take action if the science shows greenhouse gases are a danger.

"This is not a power grab," Hawkins said. "This is EPA following the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States. That is not a power grab. That is obeying the law."

An 'Ideological Agenda'

Nevertheless, Upton and his allies in Congress are voting to stop the EPA's plan to regulate. They see the agency's move as just the first in a liberal agenda to control what energy Americans will use and what they pay for it.

"We don't think that an unelected government bureaucracy with no act of Congress should be able to step in with bureaucrats and begin telling business owners, private Americans, whether it's your lawn-mower, or what kind of SUV you may or may not want to drive, the size of your home, where you ought to set your thermostat, how much your utility bills ought to be," Phillips said.

Phillips said President Obama and his allies have stated in the past that they want to drive up the costs of power from fossil fuels to push Americans away from them.

"They want to change our behavior," Phillips said. "And they're willing to use coercive means, government regulation, higher prices, higher taxes, more regulations, to make coal and oil -- the energy we get from them -- more expensive."

"It's wrong," he said. "It's an ideological agenda."

More at the Pump, Less Overall?

But Hawkins believes if America does move to greener energy and more fuel-efficiency, it will actually save Americans money in the long run. For instance, as it relates to driving:

"Even though the price at the pump for these cleaner fuels may be somewhat higher in terms of pennies per gallon, the total amount of gallons we need to do what we want to do with our lives every week and every month will go down," Hawkins explained.

But costs aside, Hawkins points out most scientists, even ones who reported to the Republican Bush administration, say global warming is a danger that must be fought.

"The science is real," Hawkins said. "The threat is real, and if we don't act, the threat is going to grow larger and larger each year that we delay."

Phillips doubts the truth of claims about global warming and man's ability to actually stop it by controlling greenhouse gases.

"They claim it will drive down the temperature like point one-one-hundredth of a degree," he said of scientists who defend such efforts. "They claim that. The science isn't even settled on that. You've seen the controversies and the cover-ups coming out of England on Climategate."

Global Warming Stalemate

A subcommittee of Upton's recently took up the scientific debate over climate change by having four true believers in global warming and three skeptics testify. Nothing was settled.

"Climate warming over the last century is unequivocal and primarily human-caused," Dr. Chris Field, a global warming believer, told the subcommittee.

Another such believer, Dr. Robert Somerville, warned, "We and our children and grandchildren will experience more floods, droughts, and heat waves. We will see severe impacts on food, water, energy, and security."

But a skeptic, Dr. Ronald Roberts, said such talk, "...rests on fearful claims, doomsday predictions of devastating consequences."

But all sides agree someone has to decide what to do about global warming, if anything.

Upton told CBN News the answer to him is clear: "We in the Congress should make the decision, not un-elected bureaucrats."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.