CLIMATE:

Senate blocks bid to hamstring EPA regs on greenhouse gases

The Senate today blocked a bid from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to veto U.S. EPA's climate regulations.

The chamber rejected, 47-53, a procedural motion that would have allowed a vote on the disapproval resolution, effectively killing the measure to overturn EPA's scientific finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare.

All 41 Republicans and six Democrats -- Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia -- voted in favor of the resolution.

Murkowski and her supporters had acknowledged that the measure had little chance of becoming law because it faced a tough battle passing the Democrat-led House and the White House this week pledged a veto.

The Senate's rejection of the measure is expected to energize proponents of a climate bill, who anticipate new momentum for their efforts as senators seek an alternative to EPA rules.

"That's helpful to us," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters after the vote. "Its obvious people want some rules and regulations."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is co-sponsoring a cap-and-trade climate and energy bill with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said yesterday that he was hopeful Murkowski would fail, "And I think that will give us a little momentum."

David Hamilton, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program, said a Murkowski failure marks "a good directional signal" for a Senate climate bill.

Murkowski had argued that the resolution had nothing to do with the science, but was necessary to block overwhelming economic and regulatory impacts from federal climate rules. She said the threat of EPA regulations should not be used as a tool to prod the Senate to rush to complete a climate bill.

"Congress would not pass, should not pass bad legislation in order to stave off bad regulations," Murkowski said.

Rockefeller bill

Meanwhile, the Senate appears poised to soon vote on another, more limited, effort to handcuff EPA climate rules.

During the run-up to today's vote on Murkowski's measure, Democratic leaders promised a vote on a narrower bill from West Virginia's Rockefeller to impose a time-out for two years on EPA rules aimed at industrial emitters, a Senate aide said (Greenwire, June 10).

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a co-sponsor of Rockefeller's bill, said today that there would be a vote, but that there was no firm date.

Rockefeller spokeswoman Jamie Smith said that "Rockefeller is not part of any deal. He is fighting to be sure the Congress -- not the unelected EPA -- decide major economic and energy policy." Rockefeller voted in favor of the Murkowski resolution today.

That measure could spark another brawl between those who support EPA rules in the absence of legislation and others who want to take the option off the table completely.

Reporters Darren Samuelsohn and Katherine Ling contributed.

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