CLIMATE:

Battle heats up on 2011 funding for EPA emissions regulations

A coalition of groups including the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is stepping up the fight to strip funding for U.S. EPA greenhouse gas regulations from a bill to keep the government afloat for the rest of fiscal 2011.

A letter sent by 21 organizations urged lawmakers to include the spending restriction in any continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations measure Congress may consider in a lame-duck session after next week's election. The group included the American Chemistry Council and National Mining Association.

"While keeping the government running is critical, lawmakers also need to make sure government funds are used in ways that advance economic recovery and environmental improvement. In that context, there is an urgent need to delay EPA's implementation of the stationary source rules," the groups wrote.

"The bipartisan Senate and House support for an EPA postponement of the stationary source rules signals that this issue should be a priority for inclusion in spending measures this year," they added.

Neither the House nor the Senate has passed any of the dozen 2011 spending bills yet, in part because of the threat to EPA funding. Congress had to pass a continuing resolution just before the October recess to keep the government running until December and is expected to pass another funding bill when it returns next month.

EPA is set to begin implementing regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources on Jan. 2. The regulations will cost industry jobs, hurt the economy and should be delayed, the groups say.

Republicans have already threatened to challenge EPA authority on its "endangerment finding" that greenhouse gas emissions harm public health and other impending regulations, if the GOP gains the majority in the House. Appropriations bills are likely a primary target for their actions.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) also has proposed a resolution that would delay EPA's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions for two years. He says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised a vote on the resolution during the lame-duck session. Rockefeller has the support of at least six Senate Democrats who co-signed his bill, although some Democrats, including Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), have expressed concern about passing it through the appropriations process.

Including restrictions on funding of EPA authority could threaten passage of any continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations bill -- all 12 spending bills packaged together -- as President Obama said he would veto a bill that included such language.

The letter was also signed by the Aluminum Association, American Farm Bureau, American Forest and Paper Association, American Iron and Steel Institute, National Association of Chemical Distributors, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

Click here to read the letter.