Senators try to block EPA GHG regulation

By Kris Bevill | January 04, 2010
Posted Jan. 22, 2010

Amid much speculation as to the source of its origin, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, took the Senate floor Jan. 21 to introduce a disapproval resolution seeking to prevent the U.S. EPA from regulating GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Murkowski's resolution challenges the EPA's recently finalized endangerment finding of GHGs, a finding that is necessary for the EPA to instigate regulatory measures for GHG emissions. If the resolution is passed, it would leave Congress responsible for regulating GHG emissions and disallow the EPA from moving forward with further regulatory measures. The rarely used disapproval resolution invoked by Murkowski was created in the Congressional Review Act and requires approval by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works before it can be introduced in the House of Representatives. President Barack Obama's signature is the final step required before the resolution can be passed.

Murkowski has been a supporter of climate change legislation, but claims the EPA's "command and control" approach to reducing GHG emissions is the worst option for regulation. "Our bipartisan resolution deals with an incredibly important question: whether or not members of this body are comfortable with the actions EPA will take under its current interpretation of the Clean Air Act," she said. "I'm not comfortable with those actions, and neither are the senators who have already agreed to add their names to this effort."

Murkowski introduced the resolution after banking much-needed bipartisan support. Thirty-six Republicans and three Democrats—Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Mary Landrieu, D-Lou., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb.—signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution.

"Controlling the levels of carbon emissions is the job of Congress," Nelson said. "We don't need EPA looking over Congress' shoulder telling us we're not moving fast enough. Carbon emissions should be reduced, but not through costly and complicated EPA regulations or a disadvantageous cap and trade proposal in Congress."

In her floor statement to introduce the resolution, Murkowski responded to allegations that the proposal had been written by lobbyists representing interests that contributed heavily to her campaign and would be disadvantaged by carbon regulation. "Given what has been alleged about my intentions, I believe this debate needs to be directed back to its substance, and away from the ad hominem attacks and red herrings that have been thrown out in recent weeks," she said. "There is a legitimate and substantive debate to be had over whether the EPA should be allowed to issue command-and-control climate regulations, and I welcome that debate." Murkowski denied the claims that lobbyists helped to draft her previous amendment and said the allegations highlight the unwillingness of opponents to engage in policy discussion.

In her floor statement, Murkowski predicted that the EPA's proposed tailoring rule to lift the emissions thresholds to 25,000 tons per year of GHG emissions will be met with swift litigation if finalized as proposed. "When the final rule is issued, it will be challenged," she said. "I expect the courts will then reject it, as it has no legal basis, and restore regulatory thresholds to 100 tons and 250 tons per year. Before long, the agency will find itself mired in the regulatory nightmare it has sought to avoid."

Murkowski admitted that Congress is far from passing any type of climate control legislation and blamed the EPA's actions for diverting some of its focus. "My goals here are twofold: to ensure that Congress has sufficient time to work on climate legislation and to ensure that the worst of our options—a massive expansion of the Clean Air Act—does not occur before that task is finished.

"I believe the looming specter of EPA regulations is actually a big part of the reason why we have had difficulty moving forward on climate legislation," she continued. "Even though we know that some approaches for reducing emissions are greatly inferior to others, there's inexplicable resistance to removing even our worst options from consideration. I haven't heard one member say that he or she prefers regulation over legislation. And yet, that option is not only still around, but also closer than ever to becoming reality. If we are serious about fulfilling our duty to our constituents and giving this issue the full debate it deserves, we should take EPA regulations off the table."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-N.V., does not support Murkowski's resolution, according to his office. "There is no disagreement that it would be better for Congress to pass bipartisan comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation than for EPA to move forward with command and control regulation of global warming pollution," his office stated. "Unfortunately, thus far, very few Republicans have shown any willingness to work with us on that more constructive solution. Sen. Murkowski's resolution would also undo a major agreement reached last year to reduce our oil consumption, making us more dependent on foreign oil and undermining our efforts to help the U.S. regain the lead in advanced automotive technology."

It is believed that if Murkowski's resolution passes the House, Obama will not sign the document, preventing the resolution from becoming finalized.