APPROPRIATIONS:

Senate panel to weigh climate regs in EPA-Interior markup

Senators are expected to propose amendments related to offshore drilling and EPA's greenhouse gas rules when the Senate Appropriations Committee marks up budgets for U.S. EPA and the Interior Department this week, a staffer for the committee's top Republican said today.

Lobbyists have been expecting critics of EPA's climate program to try to block the agency through legislation, and this week's markup offers them a prime opportunity. In July, the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds EPA was one vote shy of approving a proposed budget rider that would have delayed the agency's climate rules for two years.

Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), said no amendments have been sent to Cochran's office, but that is likely to change by Thursday's hearing.

"We're looking for and expecting amendments related to offshore drilling and possibly the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases," Gallegos said.

The Interior-EPA spending bill is one of just three that has not yet cleared committee. The spending bill for the Department of Defense, which is also awaiting a vote, is headed to a subcommittee markup tomorrow in advance of Thursday's full committee markup.

Though the Appropriations Committee usually holds subcommittee and committee markups on the same week, the budgets for EPA and the Interior Department are going straight to the full committee without a subcommittee vote. That will head off an extra round of potential amendments, but a Democratic staffer declined to say whether that was the reason for the decision.

"It's not unusual for a bill to go straight to the full committee," the staffer said.

Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said last month that the committee would likely defeat any effort to hamstring EPA.

"I think we have the votes," she said (E&E Daily, Aug. 3).

In order to pass an amendment through the full committee, which has an 18-12 split in favor of the Democrats, four senators would need to cross the aisle and vote with the entire Republican bloc.

An amendment to limit EPA could come from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a committee member who previously introduced a resolution on the Senate floor that would have denounced the agency's finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. A Murkowski aide said it is unclear whether she will offer an amendment, because she has not spoken to staffers since the markup was scheduled.

The committee includes several Democrats who might vote to limit or delay EPA's greenhouse gas rules. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted for the Murkowski resolution, while Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) have lent their support to a proposal from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to freeze EPA's rules for two years.

Schedule: The markup is Thursday, Sept. 16, at 2 p.m. in 106 Dirksen.

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