Senate Torpedoes Effort to Curb EPA Climate Regulation

Senate Torpedoes Effort to Curb EPA Climate Regulation

Congress -- Image CC licensed by Flickr user cliff1066™

The Senate beat back an attempt Thursday to reign in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The final vote was 53-47 opposed to the measure, with six Democrats joining all 41 Republicans voting in favor, the Senate defeated the resolution from Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in a move some say could add momentum to the Kerry-Lieberman climate change bill, which may hit the Senate floor in a few weeks. A new resolution that would postpone EPA regulation, however, could be on the horizon.

While Congress has struggled to pass climate change legislation over the past year, the EPA has been methodically laying the groundwork to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted ahead of Thursday's vote found roughly 71 percent at least somewhat supportive of the federal government regulating emissions. 

Murkoski argued this approach would be a job-killer at a time of high unemployment and an economy still struggling to secure its footing. She and others argued that Congress, not the EPA, should set emissions rules. President Barack Obama had warned he would veto the measure, which the Senate spent six hours debating. During the debate, several senators who voted to restrict the EPA's power also expressed concern about climate change, which may show a path to 60 votes needed to advance a climate change bill.

"Of the senators voting for the resolution, at least eight made statements saying that they believe we need to reduce GHG emissions. Among these were five Republican senators," Eileen Claussen, president of Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said in a statement Thursday. "In other words, at least 61 senators, through their votes or statements today, expressed support for policy that would limit GHG emissions." 

However, a more narrow resolution postponing EPA regulation for two years appears to be on the horizon, according to Greenwire, which reported that Senate Majority Harry Reid promised a vote on the new resolution in order to keep more Democratic senators from voting for the Murkowslu resolution.

 Image CC licensed by Flickr user cliff1066™.