Coal-state Dems challenge EPA on its climate-action plans

Eight Senate Democrats jointly said Friday that they fear the economic effects of planned EPA global warming rules, signaling a widening Democratic challenge to EPA action even as legislation to create a new climate-change program remains stuck.

The Democrats, who hail mostly from coal-producing and coal-reliant states, said in a letter to the EPA that they have “serious economic and energy security concerns” about rules to limit greenhouse gases from power plants and other stationary sources.

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) spearheaded the letter, which was also signed by Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Mark Begich (Alaska), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Robert Casey (Penn.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Carl Levin (Mich.).


“We remain concerned about the possible impacts on American workers and businesses in a number of industrial sectors, along with the farmers, miners, and small business owners who could be affected as your agency moves beyond automobile emissions standards to implement regulations to curtail GHG pollution from stationary sources,” states the letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The letter asks a series of questions about the timetable and scope of EPA’s plans. Rockefeller’s office said he is drafting a bill to suspend EPA’s regulatory authority “to allow sufficient time for Congressional consideration of the nation's larger energy policy and economic needs.”

The letter also queries EPA about the consequences of proposals that would block EPA’s “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten human welfare. The finding late last year is a legal precursor to EPA regulation of heat-trapping emissions under its existing Clean Air Act authority.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) may bring a measure to the floor next month that would overturn the finding. Three Senate Democrats – Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (La.) – have signed on thus far to Murkowski’s measure, which has 40 cosponsors.

Her resolution, brought under the rarely used Congressional Review Act, could not be filibustered. But it remains unclear whether Murkowski can muster majority Senate support for the measure, which the White House opposes and would face House hurdles even if it cleared the Senate.

The Democratic letter Friday solicits EPA’s opinion on how the resolution would affect the agency’s ongoing work to help policymakers understand how future climate and energy legislation would affect various industries.

It also asks how striking down the endangerment finding would affect EPA’s ability to provide resources and technical expertise to address the effects of climate change, such as analysis of how climate and weather variability affects farming and fisheries.

The letter says congressional climate and energy legislation is preferable to EPA acting under its existing Clean Air Act powers – a view the White House says it shares.

“The President and you have been explicit in calling on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation that would enhance our nation’s energy and climate security. We strongly believe this is ultimately Congress’ responsibility, and if done properly, will create jobs, spur new clean energy industries, and greatly advance the goal of U.S. energy independence,” it states.

But broad climate and energy legislation that limits greenhouse gas emissions faces major Senate hurdles after passing the House last year.