Senate Rejects Bid to Block EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulations

WASHINGTON, DC, June 10, 2010 (ENS) – The U.S. Senate today rejected Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval that would have prevented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution would have overturned the EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public health and welfare of Americans.

“I had hopes, for the security of our economy, that we would prevail today,” said Murkowski, a Republican. “But regardless of the outcome, I believe it’s important that every member of the Senate is on the record on whether they think the EPA regulation is the appropriate way to address climate issues.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (Photo courtesy Northern Gas Pipelines)

All Republicans and six Democrats voted in favor of proceeding to consideration of the resolution, but it was turned down 47-53.

President Barack Obama, who had threatened to veto the resolution if it was approved by the Senate, said, “I commend the Senate for rejecting the resolution put forward by Senator Murkowski, which would have increased our dependence on oil by blocking efforts to cut the harmful pollution that contributes to climate change.”

President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have both said they prefer legislation rather than regulation to govern America’s emission of greenhouse gases. The House of Representatives passed its version of an energy and climate bill last June, but the Senate has yet to pass a bill. The Kerry-Lieberman bill, the American Power Act, is pending in the Senate.

President Obama said, “Today’s vote is yet another reminder of the urgent need to pass legislation that would help America transition to a 21st century clean energy economy that would create jobs, strengthen our national security, and protect our environment for our children. Today, the Senate chose to move America forward, towards that clean energy economy – not backward to the same failed policies that have left our nation increasingly dependent on foreign oil.”

Murkowski, who calls herself “a strong proponent of moving the nation toward a cleaner energy future,” supports the expansion of offshore oil drilling in Alaska and elsewhere on the Outer Continental Shelf because she says America still needs to develop oil and gas resources to fuel its economy.

She said today the disapproval resolution would have avoided the coming “economic train wreck” that she warns EPA regulation of greenhouse gases is expected to cause.

Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led the opposition to Murkowski’s resolution on the Senate floor.

The coal-fired power plant at the U.S. Air Force Clear Air Station in Alaska emits greenhouse gases, as do all coal-burning power plants. (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

“Today I am proud that the Senate took a stand on the side of America’s families, clean energy jobs, and national security,” said Boxer. “Senators held firm against Big Oil and refused to overturn the scientific and health finding that is the foundation of a brighter future for America.”

During the debate, Boxer and other senators argued that overturning the EPA’s science and health based endangerment finding was an extreme step that would stall efforts to build a clean energy economy in the United States, would increase U.S. dependence on oil, and would set a dangerous precedent that would undermine the ability of the EPA to protect children and families from pollution.

As a result of the vote, the Environmental Protection Agency can continue its efforts under the Clean Air Act to reduce concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by regulating emissions from both stationary and mobile sources.

The Murkowski resolution was opposed by public health experts, clean energy businesses, state clean air agencies and the former EPA administrators from the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations.

Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air pollution control agencies in 52 states and territories and more than 165 major metropolitan areas, Bill Becker said, “Health and welfare protection prevailed over hyperbole. The Senate has appropriately rejected the Murkowski resolution of disapproval.”

“Notwithstanding the sponsors’ assertions,” said Becker, “EPA is following the law and making reasoned and sensible decisions every step of the way. State and local permitting authorities will be well equipped to make more timely and cost-effective regulatory decisions.”

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