Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) will vote for a resolution to hamstring U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, he said yesterday.
"I intend to vote for Senator Murkowski's Resolution of Disapproval because I believe we must send a strong message that the fate of West Virginia's economy, our manufacturing industries, and our workers should not be solely in the hands of EPA," Rockefeller said in a statement.
The Senate will vote tomorrow on a disapproval resolution (S.J.Res. 26) from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would essentially veto EPA's "endangerment" finding, a scientific determination that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. The finding is the basis for EPA's greenhouse gas regulations, which are set to take effect next year.
Rockefeller introduced a separate bill that would have more narrowly limited EPA's authority by imposing a two-year time-out on EPA climate rules for stationary sources, but he has said he had trouble advancing the measure. "I still believe that is a sound approach, and I will continue to press for action," he said.
Rockefeller's standalone bill would require 60 votes to break a likely filibuster; whereas Murkowski's resolution would need only 51 votes under the Congressional Review Act, which offers expedited procedures for undoing agency rules. Murkowski has 40 co-sponsors, including three Democrats.
The White House yesterday threatened to veto the Murkowski resolution if it reached the president's desk.
"It is not clear whether this resolution will pass, and the White House issued a statement on Tuesday threatening a veto if it does pass," Rockefeller said. "But my vote is squarely in favor of securing West Virginia's future."
Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said last night that Rockefeller's support is "to be expected," given that the White House has ignored concerns raised by the West Virginia Democrat and other critics of EPA climate rules.
Asked yesterday whether she thought she could muster the votes needed for passage, Murkowski said, "It really is dependent on many of our colleagues on the other side, who have said they agree that the EPA moving forward is the worst option. So now they've got an opportunity to really back that statement by supporting this resolution of disapproval."
Additional votes may be found among the four members who co-sponsored Rockefeller's bill. The four Democratic co-sponsors are North Dakota Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. "You have to wonder where they're going to come down," Dillon said.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), predicted that the Senate would oppose the resolution. "It appears we're going to be OK, but you never know until the vote takes place," he said.
Michigan Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow said yesterday that they plan to vote against the resolution.
Levin said he plans to oppose the measure in part because it goes against a scientific EPA finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare and also because it threatens the joint EPA and Transportation Department rule setting uniform national emission standards for automobiles.
"I'm opposing it," Stabenow said. "I think it's wrong to challenge a scientific finding about whether or not climate change exists. And that's what the resolution does. It just goes too far."
GOP steps up anti-EPA rhetoric as vote approaches
Senate Republicans stepped up their anti-EPA rhetoric yesterday, telling reporters repeatedly that the agency is overreaching and that "unelected bureaucrats" should not be allowed to dictate federal climate policies.
"The issue is whether an unelected group of bureaucrats or the U.S. Congress should decide what to do about carbon," said Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
"The overreach that we see by the EPA is truly unprecedented in terms of overreach into the legislative branch by the executive," Murkowski said.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) called EPA climate rules "a back-door energy tax that will kill jobs.
"It is another example of overreach by the Obama administration that will drive up costs for small businesses and families across the country," Thune added.
The Republicans' rallying cries came as the Obama administration intensified its attacks against the Murkowski resolution.
In addition to the White House veto threat, EPA chief Lisa Jackson continued to portray the resolution as a boon for Big Oil in the wake of the massive Gulf spill (E&ENews PM, June 8).
Jackson published an op-ed Monday in the Huffington Post blasting Murkowski for attempting to go "back to a failed approach and deepening our oil addiction at the very moment a massive spill -- the largest environmental disaster in American history -- is devastating families and businesses and destroying our precious wetlands" (E&ENews PM, June 7).
Her comments drew a sharp rebuke from Murkowski's spokesman. "Jackson's use of the tragedy in the Gulf to get a cheap political win is despicable," Dillon said.
"No other EPA administrator in history has been so singlehandedly responsible for misleading the public to advance her own political agenda as Lisa Jackson," Dillon added. "Administrator Jackson's mischaracterizations of Senator Murkowski's disapproval resolution offers a clear example of why unelected bureaucrats should not be allowed to set policy -- especially not policy that could have a devastating impact on America's economy."
Jackson reiterated concerns in a speech yesterday that the resolution would override EPA's scientific determination that greenhouse gases threaten human health and welfare and would upend the agency's first greenhouse gas standards for tailpipes, a rule that has been endorsed by automakers.
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