Senate EPW Democrats denounce Murkowski amendment

Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are urging their colleagues in the Senate to oppose efforts by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski to limit U.S. EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

All 12 Democrats on the EPW Committee yesterday signed a letter calling on members to oppose any future proposals from the Alaska senator aimed at blocking the agency's climate regulations.

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is considering several measures that would handcuff the agency. One option would be offering an amendment next week to unrelated legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling; another possibility is a disapproval resolution that would effectively veto EPA's finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.

"Debating policy choices regarding the appropriate response to unchecked climate change is fair, and the Senate will continue to evaluate the best tools for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, but repealing an endangerment finding based upon years of work by America's scientists and public health experts is not appropriate," says the letter signed by EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and her fellow Democrats, including Max Baucus of Montana, the powerful moderate leader of the Finance Committee.

"We strongly urge you to vote 'no' when a Resolution of Disapproval or a similar amendment comes before the Senate."


Murkowski, who returned from a trip to Afghanistan yesterday, defended her approach to reporters today. "I do not believe and I don't believe that most of my colleagues in the Senate believe that the EPA is the entity that is best-suited to develop climate change policy for this country," she said. The senator said she has still not decided on her strategy.

Tensions are flaring both on and off Capitol Hill over Murkowski's efforts to stall EPA climate rules.

Environmentalists today railed against the senator after news reports revealed that her office had consulted former George W. Bush administration officials when drafting an amendment last fall to temporarily block EPA from regulating industrial sources' greenhouse gas emissions (E&E Daily, Jan. 12).

Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director for the National Wildlife Federation, said the Murkowski amendment was "crafted by big polluters for big polluters."

Responding to those reports, Murkowski said, "What you're seeing now in the environmental community is just in a tailspin over this legislation, and they are throwing out any red herring that they possibly can and suggesting, 'Aha, we've got an issue here because lobbyists were involved.'"

Murkowski said her office had consulted a variety of outside experts, including environmentalists, as well as Republican and Democratic lawmakers, when drafting that amendment.

Click here to read the EPW Democrats' letter.

Senior reporter Darren Samuelsohn contributed.

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