Movers and Shakers: Political Climate Changing as Rep. Upton Targets EPA Rules

Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in "Movers and Shakers: Republican Leadership in the 112th Congress." The series looks at some of the newly prominent House Republicans who will decide GOP and legislative priorities in the next Congress.

Unconstitutional power grab. Regulatory assault. Job-killing scheme.

These are just a few of the phrases Rep. Fred Upton has used to described the Obama administration's bid to unilaterally regulate emissions through the EPA, in the absence of a comprehensive "cap-and-trade" energy bill. Upton's rhetoric, and his enthusiasm for defeating a host of new pollution rules, will get a powerful platform next session when he assumes the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"We will fight the administration's relentless assault on jobs -- and stop them from doing through regulation what they have been unable to accomplish through legislation," Upton told in a written statement.

To Upton, the forthcoming EPA regulations are a simultaneous attack on the two portfolios he'll oversee -- energy and commerce.

More On This...

He argues that the rules will increase both the price of energy and the country’s dependence on foreign oil. What’s more, Upton says the EPA will end up choking the economy by putting costly burdens on employers.

In the run-up to his new duties, the Michigan Republican has issued a call to action for Congress to stop what he sees as the "backdoor" bid to impose new regulations. That crusade is bound to complicate an already-complicated fight over how much the federal government can require of the private sector in the global effort to combat climate change. The administration has shown no signs of slowing down, despite being unable to win passage of the cap-and-trade energy bill in the last Congress.

The latest gauntlet was tossed last month, when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced plans to develop new greenhouse gas emissions rules for power plants and oil refineries, on top of regulations set to take effect on Sunday. The regulations going into effect this weekend will apply to newer industrial facilities, but the reach of those standards would expand over the next two years. The EPA also escalated a concurrent fight with Texas by announcing it would directly issue greenhouse gas permits to the state after its officials bucked federal regulations.

Jackson says she's cracking down on industrial plants to reduce pollution that "threatens the health and welfare of Americans."

But Upton called the latest movement a "crescendo" in the EPA's regulatory attack on U.S. energy producers. After the Senate over the summer turned back a bill aimed at stopping the EPA in its tracks, Upton is calling anew for Congress to step in. In a Wall Street Journal column co-written by Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips, Upton said Congress should overturn the regulations "outright." Barring that, he said both parties should at least band together to require the EPA to delay the regulations until the courts finish reviewing the EPA's actions.

"This approach would ensure that small businesses, states and even the EPA itself have the certainty needed to proceed," they wrote.

The climate battle may be a defining fight of Upton's tenure, but it won't be the only one.
Upton, who before joining Congress worked in the Reagan budget office, is also vowing to play a leading role in Republicans' uphill battle to repeal the health care law and in the presumably bipartisan effort to pare down the budget.

"We'll review the various agencies from the top down - identifying wasteful spending and rampant bureaucratic red tape that is suffocating our economy and discouraging investment and innovation," he told