Greens bash GOP bid to kill EPA rule through payroll tax cut bill

Top environmental groups blasted a plan by House Republicans to attach language delaying a key air pollution regulation to a legislative package that would extend the payroll tax cut, arguing it's an effort to “extort votes to roll back environmental and health protections.”

The groups sent a letter to top House and Senate lawmakers late Friday criticizing the plan to include measures in the package aimed at speeding up a decision on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline and delaying pending Environmental Protection Agency air pollution rules for industrial boilers.

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“[W]hile our groups take no stand on the underlying payroll legislation, there is no reason to hold a tax relief bill hostage to utterly unrelated matters,” the letter said.

“Moreover, the environmental issues that might be folded into this package are significant in their own right, and should not be slipped into an unrelated bill, limiting scrutiny and debate, in an effort to extort votes to roll back environmental and health protections.”

The House Republican plan is seen as an effort to win conservative support for the package — which would also extend unemployment insurance benefits — and to move forward with two GOP energy priorities.

The letter was signed by Environment America, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, among others.

Republicans plan to include in the package legislation sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that would require a speedy decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf coast.

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The Obama administration announced last month that it will delay a final decision on the project until after the 2012 election while the State Department reviews alternative pipeline routes.

House Republicans also hope to add language to EPA rules limiting harmful air pollution for industrial boilers and incinerators. The regulations have come under fire from Republicans and industry groups, who argue that they will harm the economy.

EPA unveiled revised boiler regulations last week that the agency says offer industry more flexibility.