Looks like attempts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide won't be delayed for too long. After Democrats managed to avoid a struggle over the issue in the Appropriations Committee this week, Sen. Jay Rockefeller again pledged on Wednesday that there will be a vote this year on his measure to delay the agency's rules on planet-warming gases.
Speaking at a pro-coal rally sponsored by the industry and supporters on the Hill today, Rockefeller said he believes he has 53 votes lined up for his measure, and believes another seven votes are "highly gettable," reports CongressDaily.
The vote probably won't come before the November elections at least; Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that it would be held "this year" but "not before we leave." There's not a whole lot of time for votes this session, and Reid likely doesn't want to take a vote on a highly contentious issue that's likely to divide the caucus right before the election. That means a vote on Rockefeller's measure would probably come in a lame-duck session after the election.
But Rockefeller was actively rallying support for his work at today's coal rally. His bill would delay EPA rules for two more years. The agency has indicated that it will begin phasing in regulations on greenhouse gases in 2011. The Associated Press reports:
The state's senior senator, Democrat Jay Rockefeller, said that Jackson "doesn't understand the sensitivities economically of what unemployment means. Her job is relatively simple: clean everything up, keep it clean, don't do anything to disturb perfection. Well, you can't do coal and do that at the same time. God didn't make coal to be an easy thing to work with."
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) also spoke in support of Rockefeller's bill: "We are not going to let the EPA regulate coal out of business." Webb voted against the last effort to block EPA regulations, which six other Democrats and every Republican supported. His vote for Rockefeller's bill would increase the number of supporters to at least 48. The measure needs 60 votes to pass, but the margin is too close for comfort for environmentalists. "We're incredibly concerned," said John Coequyt, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. "There's been a lot of industry action on the Hill. They have hundreds of lobbyists up there trying to come up with ways to delay EPA rules going forward."
Dan Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, said most of what is happening now is talk. Even if a measure did pass in the Senate, it is unlikely to even go to a vote in the House this year, and the White House has already pledged to veto it. The threat, however, could become more real next year, as Republicans are expected gain seats in both chambers this November. "This is exhibition season for assaults on the Clean Air Act," said Weiss. "The real battle will be in 2011 when there will be more representatives and senators who are hostile to pollution reductions than there are now."
Clean Energy Works, a coalition of environmental groups, is running ads on the EPA attack on DC cable starting tomorrow. Here's the 30-second spot, which a spokesman said CEW is spending "six figures" on: