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Senate Dems May Back Murkowski Plan to Block EPA Climate Rules

by Ben Geman

WASHINGTON - Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Monday that he “could very well” vote for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) plan to block any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate change rules even though it goes much further than his competing measure.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in this file photo. Murkowski believes EPA regulations will harm the economy and eventually reach small businesses, despite an agency plan to shield small emitters. Several Democratic senators, including Jay Rockefeller, may join Republicans in this effort. (Photo: AP) The Senate is slated to vote Thursday on Murkowski’s resolution, which cannot be amended or filibustered but nonetheless faces a tough road to winning 51 votes.

“It is a message about EPA,” Rockefeller told reporters in the Capitol on Monday evening. “I think it will send a message regardless of how many votes it gets.” That message, he added, “would be with respect to EPA’s closing in on coal.”

Rockefeller — a proponent of his home state’s coal industry — has floated a separate bill that would require a two-year pause before EPA can implement rules limiting emissions from stationary industrial sources like power plants.

Murkowski’s plan is more sweeping.

It would overturn EPA’s “endangerment finding” last year that greenhouse gases threaten humans. The finding is the legal precursor to rules that will require facilities including oil refineries and power plants to minimize emissions.

Murkowski believes EPA regulations will harm the economy and eventually reach small businesses, despite an agency plan to shield small emitters.

But the endangerment finding also enables EPA rules to limit vehicle emissions, which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) noted in attacking Murkowski’s plan on the Senate floor Monday.

“This week, we will debate a resolution of disapproval that will prevent the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency from working together to slow the pollution from heavy-duty vehicles,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “The result of this resolution, if passed, would be to waste at least 450 million more barrels of oil than we need to. That is wrong.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson bashed Murkowski’s effort Monday in a Huffington Post op-ed.

Murkowski has thus far attracted three Democratic co-sponsors: Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).

But Murkowski’s Alaska colleague, Sen. Mark Begich (D), said he’s leaning against her plan for several reasons. Among them: Blocking EPA’s looming requirements would remove pressure on Congress to act on a comprehensive energy and climate bill.

“We need a comprehensive energy plan, and if this keeps the fire under these guys to get something major done, I'm all for it,” Begich told reporters Monday.

A liberal advocacy group that's opposing Murkowski’s plan is fearful that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the GOP’s centrists, may vote for it. Americans United for Change has launched a new TV ad running in Portland, Maine, that urges Collins to oppose it.

“Tell Sen. Collins to keep Maine’s skies clear. Vote no on the Murkowski Big Oil bailout,” the ad states.

For further reading, see this report at SolveClimate.
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