Analysis: Election was ‘a referendum on Cap-and-Trade’ — ‘Look for EPA to try and delay the impacts of its regulatory agenda until after the 2012 elections’

Special To Climate Depot

‘What Does the 2010 Election Mean for Cap-and-Trade and the EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulations?’ — By Andrew Wheeler

(Wheeler is senior vice president of B&D Consulting and the former Staff Director of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee.)

First, was the election a referendum on Cap and Trade? Absolutely. While the economy and jobs were the most important issues, Cap and Trade certainly played a role in the historic gains in the election and it will continue to play a role as the EPA moves forward on the regulations.

On Cap and Trade, one needs to look no further than the ten House Democrats who voted for Cap and Trade but voted against the healthcare bill.
– Adler
– Boucher
– Kratovil
– Skelton
– Space
– Teague
– Chandler
– Lipinski
– Lynch
– Peterson

Of the ten members, three were in noncompetitive seats (Peterson, Lynch, and Lipinski). In fact Lynch and Lipinski voted against healthcare because it didn’t go far enough. That leaves seven House members who voted against healthcare but supported Waxman/Markey, six of whom were defeated last night and the seventh, Congressman Chandler leads by only 600 votes but the race hasn’t been called yet. The Cap and Trade bill figured prominently in all seven of these races, specifically in Congressman Boucher’s district with his role in helping to craft the bill. In the Teague race, returning Congressman Pearce cited the Cap and Trade vote as one of the primary reasons he decided to challenge Congressman Teague.

What does this mean for the EPA regulations?

Well you have to look at the Republican results in the industrial/coalbelt Midwest. Republicans picked up the Governorships in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They picked up Senate seats in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. While the Democrats held on to the Senate seat in West Virginia, Governor Manchin was losing until he ran an ad literally shooting the Cap and Trade Bill with a rifle. This ad was glorified by the press and turned the race around. While there were no statewide races in Virginia, Republicans picked up three House seats and a fourth is still too close to call. What does this mean going forward? Except for West Virginia, President Obama won all of these states in 2008.

In all of these races, the Republicans who won, and Governor Manchin, criticized the Cap-and-Trade proposals and the EPA regulatory agenda. Does this mean that the Obama Administration will change course, no. But it does mean his political advisers will be scrutinizing the results and recalculating the electoral map for 2012. Don’t be surprised if the Obama political operatives start paying more attention to these issues over the next two years.

It also means that returning senators in these states, specifically Senators Stabenow, Kohl, Casey, Sherrod Brown, Warner, Levin and Durbin will have to take a closer look at legislation such as the Rockefeller Bill to delay the EPA regulations, with the first four of those Senators up for reelection in 2012. Joining those four Senators in 2012 are Senators Conrad, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson and Webb, all from states where Republicans made gains and Cap and Trade was an issue. Throw in Senator Tester as well who is also up in 2012 and hails from a coal state which has always been skeptical of EPA and greenhouse gas regulations. One can easily see a path to sixty votes in the Senate to rein in the EPA regulations.

The next question of course is whether the Obama Administration vetoes such legislation.

If he relies on his environmental advisors, probably yes. But if his political advisers get involved, they will focus on the electoral map and the results in the industrial/coalbelt states from last night’s election.

What does the EPA do?

There are two schools of thought. First is the 1995-1996 EPA model of Carol Browner as a deer in the headlights where they worked quietly behind the scenes but did not take a public activist role. Most of the public arguments were made by the national environmental organizations. The second model is EPA circa 1997-2000 with Carol Browner and the bunker mentality. The EPA hunkered down and basically dared Congress to intervene, moving forward with such proposals as the 97 ozone and PM standards.

It’s not too far-fetched, particularly with Carol Browner’s current role in the Obama White House, to imagine that history may repeat itself. Look for the EPA to try and delay the impacts of its regulatory agenda until after the 2012 elections, offering waivers when necessary to key states and delaying implementation dates. But it’s important to remember that one of the main reasons Al Gore lost West Virginia in 2000 and Tennessee to a lesser extent, was the EPA policies in the late 90’s and the Clinton/Gore anti-coal policies.

The voters in the Midwestern states are more attuned and educated concerning the impact of environmental policies on their State’s economies than they were a decade ago, and with the Republican gains across the Midwest; the environmental issues will receive much more scrutiny from both sides of the aisle.