- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush's proposal to regulate for the first time the gases some scientists say causes global warming has created a stir among conservatives in Congress and major business groups.

The proposal, part of the Republican candidate's energy platform released last month, has surprised and alarmed the members of Congress and businesses that have been working to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from trying to carry out the global-warming treaty.

"It is a betrayal of a number of members of Congress who have resolutely fought carbon-dioxide regulation, which EPA has wanted and been trying to do since [EPA Administrator Carol M.] Browner took over," said Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

The proposal would cap for the first time the carbon-dioxide emissions of power plants.

Republican aides in Congress and business officials interviewed refused to be quoted on the record opposing the Bush proposal.

"Everyone is being quiet about Bush because people are desperate to get rid of the most unethical administration in history," said Mr. Ebell. "But there is outrage and disgust all over the Hill and in non-utility industries. The utilities got this in without anybody knowing about it."

Uncertainty about whether the government will regulate carbon dioxide to comply with the global-warming treaty has plagued utilities, which must plan many decades into the future when they build or expand their power plants.

The caps proposed by Mr. Bush would give them that certainty. But Mr. Ebell said it is at the risk of establishing a precedent for regulating the majority of other businesses and consumers who emit carbon dioxide when they drive their cars or heat their homes.

"This puts every other industry at risk of similarly being regulated, but it especially threatens consumers with much higher energy prices," Mr. Ebell said.

Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, who was instrumental in drafting the global-warming treaty in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, has only hinted that he might propose a cap on carbon dioxide.

The administration has avoided proposing any such major new regulations since Congress two years ago barred any attempts by the EPA to carry out the Kyoto treaty. The treaty has not been ratified by the Senate, where it faces overwhelming opposition.

But business and congressional sources say the EPA is considering proposing a cap on power-plant emissions that is nearly identical to the Bush proposal in a "midnight" regulation that likely would be issued after the presidential election but before the next president takes office.

Congressional and business sources said the greatest danger of Mr. Bush's proposal is that it eases the way for that regulation since the administration could argue the regulation has bipartisan support.

"George Bush gave away the store … and I don't think he realizes it," said a House Republican aide. "The Kyoto protocol is a carbon-dioxide regulation treaty. Bush says he's against the Kyoto protocol, but he has embraced the heart of the Kyoto agenda."

Some House members among them, Republican Reps. David M. McIntosh of Indiana, Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri and Joe Knollenberg of Michigan have fought to keep the EPA from coming out with what would be one of the most far-reaching regulations ever, aides said.

More than a million small businesses in the country likely would be subject to any comprehensive proposal by the EPA to limit carbon-dioxide emissions, they said.

"There is a potential for dramatic expansion in the number of entities EPA could regulate," said the Republican aide. "It frightens the hell out of me. Bush has taken us a step closer to that."

Environmentalists were heartened and impressed by the Bush proposal, however.

"Both candidates are talking about this," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He noted that Mr. Bush called for a "first-time commitment to enforceable caps" on carbon dioxide, while Mr. Gore has called only for voluntary standards.

"The electricity-utility sector has shown there can be tough regulations on a bipartisan basis to deal with this problem," he said.

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