By Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia - 03/31/11 11:10 PM EDT
Fears persist on EPA spending riders despite White House stance
Democrats and environmental groups are ramping up pressure on the White House to categorically rule out accepting GOP riders that block climate change rules in a final government spending package.
The White House reaffirmed its opposition Thursday to accepting in a spending package provisions that block fiscal year 2011 funding for implementing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules.
But activists want a really, really strong statement from the White House. Administration officials' comments to date have not been strong enough to completely ease green groups' fears that measures that would block EPA greenhouse gas curbs and other pollution rules could be a bargaining chip in spending talks.
The heads of nearly a dozen environmental
groups sent a letter to President Obama Thursday urging him to veto any
fiscal year 2011 spending package that includes the measures.
The groups said they "appreciate today's statement in opposition to anti-environmental riders," but they continued:
“As you continue to negotiate the parameters of a Continuing Resolution for fiscal year 2011 we urge you to stand up to the special interests like Big Oil and other polluters and publicly reject any legislative riders that would constitute a backdoor attempt to block, weaken or delay the EPA’s ability to protect public health and reduce carbon and other pollution under the Clean Air Act or undermine the quality of our air, land water and wildlife,” states the letter from the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Wilderness Society and other groups.
The White House sought to provide reassurance in a statement earlier Thursday.
“As the administration has made clear, the funding bill should not be used to further unrelated policy agendas, and we remain opposed to riders that do that, including as it relates to the environment,” said Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman.
The White House has also pushed back against a Wednesday evening Associated Press report that the administration would accept some GOP plans to restrict the EPA as part of a final spending deal. The story cited an anonymous Democratic lawmaker familiar with the proceedings of a White House meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that spending bills are not the place for “contentious ideological or politicized issues that honestly will derail the process.” But he stopped short of a veto threat and said, “I’m not going to go into lines of the budget.”
More than 30 Democrats are seeking to keep up the pressure as the endgame on a fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution draws near. Senate votes on a GOP amendment to a separate bill that would block EPA greenhouse gas rules also loom.
The Democrats introduced a resolution Thursday in support of the Clean Air Act; backers include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other members of the Democratic leadership team. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the lead sponsor.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told E2 late Thursday afternoon that a sweeping White House statement that takes riders off the table in spending talks is needed.
“I think it would be useful and helpful for the White House to eliminate any lingering uncertainty,” said Whitehouse, who noted he had not yet seen the White House statement earlier in the day.
Across the Capitol, 56 House Democrats — led by the leaders of the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition — sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) bashing the riders.
“We would like to work with you to find common ground on a [continuing resolution] to fund the government for the remainder of FY11, but we would have very strong reservations about supporting a long-term CR that limits the Administration’s authority to protect air, water, and environmental quality, and its Supreme Court-mandated duty to protect public health,” states the letter from Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and others.
Sen. Blunt: Climate vote delay helps Dems
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said delays that have prevented a vote on blocking EPA climate rules will help Democrats prevent passage of the measure.
“I think it gives the majority more of a chance to pressure enough middle-of-the-road Democrats and middle-of-the-country Democrats so that this ultimately does not get the 60 votes it should get,” he told E2 in the Capitol Thursday.
Republicans want to attach an amendment to small-business legislation that would prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, refineries and other sources.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) backs the GOP plan, and some other centrist Democrats could vote for the amendment as well, but it is highly unlikely to reach 60 votes.
State attorneys general call for EPA climate rules delay
Twenty state attorneys general wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson this week calling for a delay in climate regulations.
“As state Attorneys General, we are writing to ask the EPA to defer its program of greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations so that Congress can be given an opportunity to evaluate both the need and timing of such regulations,” the letter, sent Tuesday, said. “Such deferral is especially important to us given the disruption that the rapid implementation of the EPA program is causing to the state administrative agencies that we advise and the businesses those agencies have been tasked with regulating.”
ON TAP FRIDAY:
House Appropriations panel to examine NOAA budget
The House Appropriations Committee will examine the proposed fiscal year 2012 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco will testify.
LaHood to discuss Obama’s energy plan
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will discuss President Obama’s energy plan Friday afternoon on a conference call with reporters.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
Here’s a quick roundup of Thursday’s E2 stories:
-Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is not interested in joining a bipartisan energy “gang”
-A committee on drilling safety organized by the Interior Department is holding its first meeting next month
-Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) floated a plan to cut oil imports
-The White House said it is opposed to riders in a spending bill that would block EPA rules
-Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) unveiled an offshore drilling bill
-Senate votes on amendments to block or limit EPA climate bills were postponed
-Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) blasted an amendment that would block the climate rules
-House Republicans launched an investigation into the Obama administration’s decision to abandon Yucca Mountain