Murkowski EPA resolution slated for June 10 vote

Mark your calendars.

The Senate will vote June 10 on a resolution that would undo U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday.

Murkowski, the measure's lead sponsor, said she has reached a unanimous consent agreement with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to call for a floor vote on her resolution after the weeklong Memorial Day recess.

"Reid and I have agreed on the time," Murkowski said yesterday. "Until it's typed down in language, nothing is locked in solid, but the agreement that we have that was reached this afternoon was to go for the 10th."


Reid spokesman Jim Manley declined to comment.

Murkowski's disapproval resolution seeks to veto EPA's "endangerment finding," a formal determination that allows the agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski's office said previously that the senator had until June 7 to call for a guaranteed floor vote under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to veto agency rules. But Murkowski said the agreement with Reid would push the vote back.

"We're going to be working through the supplemental all week, and I think we just recognize that we're going to have a pretty full schedule," Murkowski said. "So to find 10 hours, the other side agreed that let's just agree to a unanimous consent."

The Senate would debate the measure for 10 hours; no filibusters or amendments would be possible.

Murkowski's resolution would need 51 votes to clear the chamber. She already has 41 co-sponsors, including three Democrats: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Even if the resolution passes the Senate, it faces an uphill climb in the House, which does not have the same expedited procedures, and it faces a likely veto from President Obama. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has warned that nullifying the endangerment finding would upend the administration's joint EPA and Transportation Department fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emission limits for cars and light-duty trucks.

Asked yesterday whether she had the votes to clear the chamber, Murkowski said her vote count was "top secret."

"It is always a challenge when you have other variables that are at play," she said. Murkowski pointed to separate efforts in the Senate to block or limit EPA climate rules, including a bill from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that would block EPA from regulating stationary sources for two years and a climate and energy bill from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that would also limit EPA.

"So there's a lot of variables," she said. "My job is just to work hard, make sure people understand the implications of this measure and what it will mean for our nation's economy, and we'll go forward with the vote after the recess."

Rockefeller yesterday said he has not yet made up his mind about whether to support Murkowski's resolution. Several of Rockefeller's co-sponsors -- Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) -- have said that they favor the two-year timeout to Murkowski's resolution.

But Murkowski said she plans to call for the vote whether or not she has the votes. "We wouldn't move forward with a unanimous consent if we weren't intending to move forward," she said.

Former EPA chief warns against resolution

Former EPA Administrator Russell Train yesterday urged Senate leaders to oppose Murkowski's bid to handcuff the agency.

"S.J.Res. 26 would rollback Clean Air Act protections and prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding the agency's scientific determination that these pollutants endanger human health and welfare," Train wrote in a letter to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Train served as EPA chief under former Presidents Nixon and Ford.

"If passed, this resolution would fundamentally undermine the Clean Air Act, overturning science in favor of political considerations," he wrote.

Supporters of the resolution argue that Congress did not mean to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, but Train called that argument "inconsistent with the history of the law as it has been applied for the past 40 years."

Train also defended the Obama EPA's efforts to gradually phase in climate rules for industrial emitters. "In executing her responsibilities, the current Administrator appears to have taken a measured approach and demonstrated a sensitivity to economic concerns," he said.

EPA has said that permitting rules for stationary sources will not kick in until January 2011 and that the agency will begin by tackling the biggest polluters.

Click here to read Train's letter.

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