Friday, January 22, 2010

Could the Senate Block the EPA on Climate Change?

Last year, the EPA adopted a finding that greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger, and proposed regulations to limit emissions from the country's biggest polluters. As the AP reports, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has introduced a resolution to block the EPA from enforcing the new rule. Three Democrats, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have signed on to her resolution. The measure, called a “Resolution of Disapproval,” is not likely to pass, and if it does, would probably be vetoed.
Senate Joint Resolution 26 has been assigned to the Environment & Public Works Committee. All twelve Democratic members of the committee (Boxer, Baucus Carper, Lautenberg, Cardin, Sanders, Klobuchar, Whitehouse, Udall of NM, Merkley, Gillibrand, and Specter) have signed a letter opposing Murkowski’s resolution.

This in itself will not be enough to keep the resolution from reaching the Senate floor. Under the arcane procedures for considering disapproval of regulations, 30 senators can petition to have the resolution automatically discharged from the committee and placed on the Senate agenda.
While a letter from the Democratic members of the committee will not block the resolution, it does convey a strong message that the majority of senators do not support Murkowski. Tom Carper last night offered his reasons for opposing the effort to block the EPA finding:

Sen. Murkowski's resolution would overturn science that the Supreme Court, states and our leading scientists agree is sound.
Now is not the time to question these findings. Now is not the time to delay. Now is the time for productive debate on how the United States can lead the clean energy revolution.
Furthermore, if Congress does not like the tools the EPA has to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, then it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and pass meaningful climate change legislation this year.

The EPA finding is a tremendous motivator for Congress. The EPA is forcing Congress to either acquiesce or pass legislation to control greenhouse gas emissions, which will not be easy. But while Congress struggles to meet its obligations to act, it should not prevent the EPA from doing what is required under the law to protect us from the deleterious effects of climate change.

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