As early as today, Congress will be taking up two different matters, both of which seek to prevent the EPA from effectively passing a back-door version of Cap and Trade by regulating greenhouse gas emissions. First, the House is scheduled to vote on HR 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. You can read the full text of the bill here, but the summary pretty much says it all.

To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes.

At nearly the same time, the Senate will take up Mitch McConnell’s EPA amendment, attached to S. 493, the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization bill, which seeks to effectively accomplish the same thing. So why is this important to you?

Once congressional Democrats saw public support for cap and trade eroding and lost their taste for a battle on the hill over it, the Obama administration moved to sidestep the legislative process and essentially accomplish the same goals through EPA regulatory fiat. And make no mistake, nothing has changed. This still works out to be a de facto tax, where energy companies will incur major new costs to comply with the rules which they will then pass on to consumers.

And this is probably the worst possible time to sock it to working families in the form of heightened utility bills. A study conducted in February found that low income families are already the hardest hit when it comes to energy costs, including large amounts of domestic energy production which still comes from coal. (An area which would be hardest hit by such regulations.)

  • Lower-income households are paying nearly a quarter of their income for energy costs. The 27 million lower-income households earning between $10,000 and $30,000, representing 23% of U.S. households, will allocate 23% of their 2011 after-tax income to energy, more than twice the national average of 11%.
  • Minority households are disproportionately impacted by higher energy costs. In 2009, 62% of Hispanic households and 67% of black households had average annual incomes below $50,000, compared with 46% of white households and 39% of Asian households. Energy costs represent a much larger fraction of disposable income for households earning less than $50,000 than for wealthier families. Due to these income inequalities, the burdens of energy price increases are imposed disproportionately on black and Hispanic households.
  • Senior citizens living on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to energy price increases. Seniors have the highest per capita residential energy consumption among all age categories. The average basic Social Security income of 31.5 million senior households was $15,443 in 2009. The median income of 25.3 million households with a principal householder aged 65 or older was $31,354.

This might be a good time to melt the phones, folks. Get hold of your rep and senators and let them know they need to support us on these votes. Or, you can just sit back, do nothing, and get ready to pay more in energy costs across the board without Congress ever having a voice on the matter.