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Senate Braces for Fight over Murkowski EPA Proposal

January 18, 2010
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Senate Democrats and Republicans are expected to square off this week over a controversial GOP proposal that would delay for one year the Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has granted Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the opportunity to offer an amendment on the issue on Wednesday (Jan. 20), when the Senate is due to take up legislation raising the debt limit.

In September Senate Democrats blocked a similar Murkowski amendment to a spending bill that would have postponed for one year the EPA's regulations for GHG emissions from stationary sources to give Congress additional time to work on climate change legislation (see NGI, Sept. 28, 2009).

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is considering either filing an amendment to the legislation on debt limit, or a "disapproval resolution" to stop the EPA's efforts to regulate GHG emissions under the CAA (see NGI, Jan. 4). "She will do something, but she hasn't decided yet," said Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon Friday.

The resolution of disapproval is a rarely used instrument by Congress. EPA regulation of GHG emissions could effectively be negated if the disapproval resolution is ratified.

The EPA's December endangerment finding, Republicans and other critics say, has set the stage for the agency to more stringently regulate emissions even if Congress fails to enact climate change legislation. In December, the EPA found that carbon dioxide and GHG emissions pose a danger to the public's health and welfare (see NGI, Dec. 14, 2009).

Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week joined to oppose attempts by Murkowski to overturn the EPA endangerment finding.

"The independent work of scientists and public health experts from both the Bush and Obama administrations should stand on its own. We strongly urge you to vote 'no' when a resolution of disapproval or a similar amendment comes before the Senate," wrote Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the other 11 committee Democrats in a "Dear Colleague" letter.

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