Another EPA Threat Averted (For Now)

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The Senate hasn’t done much this year on climate or energy. In fact, one could say it has done nothing substantive on the issues. But at least that do-nothing spirit extends to not stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate planet-warming gases—at least for now.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to mark up the annual appropriations bill on Thursday, and as Politico reported today, there was considerable fear that an amendment to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases would be offered and approved. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats skirted the issue by limiting this week’s markup to just executive branch and defense appropriations, leaving the portion that the question of EPA regulation to a later date.

Yet another attempt to block EPA regulations was expected to come from Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Her spokesman, Robert Dillon, said her office had drafted an amendment to limit the agency’s ability to spend any funds on said regulations and expected Murkowski to offer it in Thursday’s markup. (She’s been in Alaska contemplating her options for reelection after right-wing challenger Joe Miller unexpectedly defeated her in the primary last month, but expected to be back in DC on Thursday. Dillon said the senator “fully expected to win that vote.”

The measure also had the backing of the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, among others, reports The Hill.

This, of course, wouldn’t be Murkowski’s first attempt to thwart EPA action; in June the Senate voted down an attempt to strip that authority by an uncomfortably close margin. Six Democrats voted to bar the agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and most of them sit on the Appropriations Committee, which made it more likely that Murkowski’s move would win approval in committee.

But the fact that the EPA regulations are off the table for Thursday doesn’t mean the attempts to block action are no longer a threat. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has also floated legislation that would delay regulation for two years, and Majority Leader Harry Reid told him his measure would get a vote. On Tuesday, Rockefeller said he would not offer his measure via the appropriations process, after several other Democrats balked. Instead, Rockefeller and his supporters expect a separate vote on the Senate floor sometime this fall.

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