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Climate Bill Would Curb EPA

Lisa Lerer

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have been working together to craft climate legislation.

Efforts to limit
the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate
greenhouse gases has emerged as a major battleground in the climate
debate, as three key senators move toward releasing the first draft of
their revamped climate bill.

Recent drafts of the legislation would hobble the EPA by limiting the
agency’s regulatory powers under the Clean Air Act, according to
lawmakers and lobbyists familiar with the bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who’s crafting the climate bill with
Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), says the
provision is necessary to win business backing for the bill.

“I wouldn’t support EPA regulation on top of congressional action, and
I couldn’t support 50 states coming up with their own standards,” he
said. “That’s one thing business legitimately needs.”

Language pre-empting the EPA and state laws in the bill is also needed
to win the votes of key Senate moderates on both sides of the aisle.

“I think it’s going to help to get a lot of people’s votes,” Sen. Mary
Landrieu (D-La.) said of the provision. “I also think it’s the right
thing to do. If you have a national goal, you can’t also have 50

But while many environmentally minded Democrats are open to
compromising on controversial offshore drilling and nuclear proposals,
several said they could not support a bill that would pre-empt EPA

Last month, 13 Democratic senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid — pushing him to preserve the Clean Air Act.

“As strong supporters of clean energy, we urge you to ensure that
energy and climate legislation builds on the existing Clean Air Act and
does not create loopholes for old, inefficient and polluting coal-fired
power plants,” they wrote.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told E&E, an energy trade
publication, that he would “strongly oppose efforts to gut the Clean
Air Act.”

Environmental activists are pushing hard to protect EPA power, warning
that limiting the agency could cost support among progressive

“There’s a lot of room to lose support on the progressive side,” said
Alex Posorske, field manager of the environmental coalition 1Sky. “A
lot of the base is very interested in making sure that the Clean Air
Act is left intact to take on the oldest, dirtiest coal plants.”

held rallies in support of the Clean Air Act in front of the regional
offices of 14 moderate senators and eight House members during the past
few weeks. They plan to visit 12 more offices before Earth Day on April
22. The Sierra Club and are also targeting lawmakers with
phone calls and office visits, urging them to keep EPA’s powers intact.


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Michael Brune, the newly appointed executive director of the Sierra
Club, told the Los Angeles Times last month that the grass-roots
environmental group would oppose a climate bill that “took power” from
the EPA.

Utilities, oil refiners and other business interests have lobbied hard
to hobble the EPA’s rule-making authority, fearing a blizzard of
climate laws on top of the new national standard that would be created
by congressional legislation. Industry argues that the overlapping
rules would make it difficult for companies to estimate the total costs
of the new climate rules.

More than 20 states currently participate in regional initiatives that
aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants while
increasing renewable energy. At the same time, EPA is moving forward
with plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions if Congress fails to
act on legislation.

The restrictions could block the EPA from setting national emissions
limits and regulating greenhouse gases as toxins and pre-empt state and
regional cap-and-trade programs, according to lobbyists familiar with
the bill.

EPA’s efforts have sparked an outcry from moderate Democrats and
Republicans in Congress, who’ve introduced multiple measures to stop
the agency.

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced legislation barring the
agency from instituting rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from
power plants and other industrial sources for the next two years.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced companion legislation in the
House, with coal-state Democratic Reps. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia
and Rick Boucher of Virginia as co-sponsors.

A disapproval resolution, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska),
that would veto EPA’s endangerment finding has picked up more than 40
co-sponsors, including three Democrats.

In response to concerns voiced by moderate Democrats, EPA Administrator
Lisa Jackson announced that she expects the agency to weaken its
proposed pollution standards and delay implementation of the new rules
until 2011.

But Jackson also urged lawmakers to focus on passing a climate bill instead of on stopping the agency.

“We are not going to be regulating this calendar year, and I really
think it would be wonderful if the energy of the Senate on this issue
would be put to new legislation to do something,” she said.


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