Opponents of U.S. EPA climate rules may attempt to thwart those regulations by attaching a rider to a renewable energy bill that seems to be gaining traction in the Senate.
Four Republicans and 20 Democrats are co-sponsoring a bill to implement a national renewable electricity standard (RES), and supporters are optimistic that the measure can get the 60 votes needed to clear the chamber this session.
If it moves, the measure will become a prime target for lawmakers looking to stymie controversial EPA climate rules slated to kick in on Jan. 2, 2011.
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said it is possible that lawmakers looking to block EPA would try to handcuff agency rules using the RES bill as a vehicle. "Whatever works," Bond said today. "No specifics yet because we don't know what they're doing."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the author of a bill to delay climate rules, said he was not planning to offer his measure as an amendment, but he did not rule it out.
"I'm not saying no," Rockefeller said. "I'm just thinking about it."
The coal state lawmaker said he had some concerns about how the standard would affect his state. "I think that the RES is fairly anti-coal and anti-nuclear," he said.
Rockefeller has said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is promising a vote this year on his bill. The measure would block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources for two years.
Asked today whether he would consider allowing Rockefeller to offer the two-year delay measure to an RES bill, Reid said, "I would consider anything."
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy Committee and a co-sponsor of the RES bill, said today that the point of introducing the stand-alone RES measure was to get enough co-sponsors to show that it can pass without amendments, which could bog down the effort (Greenwire, Sept. 23).
The leading Republican co-sponsor of the RES bill, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, said today that allowing a rider to limit EPA's authority "might get us votes." Still, he added, "I don't know how many votes it loses you, too. I don't know the calculus of it. We've got to get past 60, and I think we need to look at things we need to do to get there.
"We've gotten a fair number of Republican co-sponsors on just a straight RES," Brownback added.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), another leading Senate proponent of the RES, signaled that attaching a rider to block EPA could cost the bill his vote.
"That would be problematic for me," Udall said. "I think the two are separate enough ... that they shouldn't be twinned together in one measure. But this is, after all, a legislator's paradise; there's no rules about what you can link together."