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Rural Missouri Magazine

Skelton & Emerson put Missouri first

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

It’s rare these days to see a Democrat and a Republican agree on anything. Partisan bickering seems to rule virtually everything that happens in Washington, D.C.

The fact that Missouri Democrat Rep. Ike Skelton and Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson stood together on a podium in Jefferson City might have been big news. But the announcement they made before leaders of Missouri’s electric cooperatives, corn and soybean growers and municipal utilities was nothing short of a blockbuster.

Skelton and Emerson, who are good friends and agree on a lot more than most people realize, spoke to a gathering of rural electric grassroots advocates Feb. 2 to announce they would be filing legislation that would reign in the Environmental Protection Agency on the climate change issue.

Joining them in the effort is U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Ag Committee.

The two drew a bipartisan line in the sand, saying they would stand up for consumers in Missouri and challenge the president and the House leadership on this issue.

If it becomes law, H.R. 4572 will strip from EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases and keep that debate in Congress where it belongs. It will prevent EPA from holding U.S. farmers and the renewable fuels industry responsible for land use changes that take place in other countries.

And, it will expand the definition of what qualifies as renewable fuels under U.S. energy law, a real plus for the nation’s farmers.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that EPA had authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. With climate change legislation stalled, the EPA has begun moving aggressively toward stringent regulations that could have serious consequences for ratepayers all across the Midwest.

Those regulations would make it difficult or extremely expensive to generate electricity with coal, which provides 80 percent of the electricity used in Missouri. Unlike Congress, the bureaucrats at EPA do not answer directly to the voters.

Skelton, Emerson, Peterson and a host of their colleagues in the House and Senate do not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision. They say Congress never intended for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, which was enacted to reduce lead and smog in the air many years before climate change was even an issue.

The original author of the Clean Air Act, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, has said EPA using the Clean Air Act would be a “glorious mess.”

The legislation sends a clear signal to the EPA and anyone else who believes the best way to solve climate change is to make electricity unaffordable for Missourians.

Reps. Skelton and Emerson believe there is a better way to do this. Their commitment to affordable, reliable and achievable energy goals is easy to see. Their effort to keep EPA off consumer’s backs deserves the praise of every voter in the state.

Ike and Jo Ann ought to be commended for putting partisan politics aside for the good of the people. That’s how Washington should be running.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart
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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

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2722 E. McCarty Street
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