GOP Candidates Jointly Bash Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency is emerging as a favorite target of the Republican presidential candidates, who portray it as the very symbol of a heavy-handed regulatory agenda imposed by the Obama administration that they say is strangling the economy.

Representative Michele Bachmann says the Environmental Protection Agency should be called the 'job-killing organization of America.' Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In a recent CNN debate, Representative Michele Bachmann went so far as to dub the agency the greatest threat to American jobs, and Jon Huntsman has averred new environmental regulations should be shelved until the economy picks up.

Rick Perry agrees for this part. In an interview with CBN News earlier this month, Perry asked that the “EPA back down these regulations that are causing businesses to hesitate to spend money,” and as recently as last year he charged that when the EPA declared carbon dioxide a toxic substance, “they put countless businesses, farms, even large churches in their cross hairs.”

Representative Ron Paul of Texas wants environmental disputes settled by the states or the courts. Herman Cain, a businessman, wants to put many environmental regulations in the hands of an independent commission that includes oil and gas executives. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, thinks most new environmental regulations should be shelved until the economy improves.

Presidential hopeful Herman Cain has vowed to effectively gut the EPA within the first 30 days of being elected, handing environmental regulatory duties over to an “independent commission” headed by oil and gas executives. Ron Paul, in an interview several years back, called the regulatory agency completely unnecessary, while Newt Gingrich has called for the total elimination of the agency.

Only Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has a kind word for the E.P.A., and that is qualified by his opposition to proposed regulation of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming. Recent polls show that a majority of Republicans want to continue funding the EPA, while experts say the electorate largely trusts the American regulatory agency.

“They are catering to a small segment of Republican electorate”, said Republicans for Environmental Protection’s David Jenkins when asked why presidential hopefuls would target the agency. When you look at polling on just about any environmental issue, Jenkins said, be it the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act, Americans support conservation by substantial majorities.

“I don’t see how [these] candidates can think that they can all squeeze through that door and fall all over themselves to appeal to [a minority] of the Republican electorate and that somehow is a smart strategy [for] both the primary as a whole and obviously the general election,” said Jenkins of GOP front-runners. “Most Americans are at a different place.”

The mantra of the House Republican led Energy and Commerce Committee has been to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.  Barring that, the Republican leadership (Fred Upton (MI), Chair, Joe Barton (TX), Ed Whitfield (KY), John Shimkus (IL) and Cliff Sterns (FL)) vow to do away with as many, what they call ‘onerous’, EPA regulations as possible.

Lisa Jackson, the head of EPA and other EPA officials have been called to testify before various committees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee so many times, they could almost call 2123 Rayburn, House Energy and Commerce Hearing Room, their second home.

These actions have kept wily Democratic members of the Committee such as Congressmen Henry Waxman (CA), Ed Markey (MA), and John Dingell on the defensive for much of the past year.

When asked if they would “favor legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from spending any money to enforce regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues” only a minority of Republicans – 45 percent – responded affirmatively.

Among Tea Party candidates the number was just 50 percent. When asked if they favored legislation providing funding to the agency to enforce such regulations, a full 53 percent of Republicans responded affirmatively.

The survey, which was conducted on April 9-10 with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, a time when Congress and the president were working furiously negotiating a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded through the end of the year, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown.

One might expect surveys conducted during that time to skew away from spending, not towards it, yet a full 71 percent of respondents – both Democrats and Republicans – favored continuing to fund the EPA. [via The Huff Post, The New York Times and NDN]

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