WASHINTON — Her first attempt failed, but on Monday Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, moved again to try to halt the Environmental Protection Agency's movement toward regulating the emission of greenhouse gases.
The federal agency last week announced that global warming pollution endangers public health, and announced plans to move forward with regulations that will limit emissions by large producers of greenhouse gases.
It could be years before any EPA regulations take effect, and the White House has said it would prefer that Congress write the guidelines. But if Congress doesn't act, the EPA's rules could set the standard for greenhouse gas emissions on the part of large emitters such as power plants, factories and other stationary sources of pollution.
Monday, Murkowski took to the Senate floor to express her concerns about an executive branch agency writing such regulations rather than Congress. She announced her intention to file a "disapproval resolution," a rare move that prohibits rules written by executive branch agencies from taking effect.
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"This finding is supposedly rooted in concerns about the public health and public welfare," Murkowski said. "But what it really endangers are jobs, economic recovery and American competitiveness."
Murkowski is the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and she said Monday she remains committed to taking "meaningful action to reduce our nation's greenhouse gas emissions." But she also took a shot at the timing of the "endangerment finding" by the EPA, which made its announcement last week even as thousands of people from 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen for the U.N. climate summit.
"I am not interested in trying to embarrass the president, either here at home or on the international stage," Murkowski said, but added that "it's safe to say that I didn't choose to release the endangerment finding on the opening day of the Copenhagen climate conference. That was the EPA's decision."
In September, Senate Democrats blocked Murkowski's effort to limit for a year the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Murkowski argued then that it would give Congress time to work on its own climate legislation so that what she called "the worst of our options, EPA regulation," didn't take effect before lawmakers completed their work. Since then, Murkowski has sparred with the EPA, which mounted a vigorous defense of the Alaska senator's effort to curtail its power to write the emissions rules.
The EPA's spokeswoman, Adora Andy, said Monday that the agency was complying with a Supreme Court decision. In 2007, the court ordered the Bush administration to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger the country's health and welfare. If the agency found that such emissions are indeed dangerous, the court instructed the EPA to address the problem.
"The United States Supreme Court ordered EPA two-and-a-half years ago to answer the endangerment question," Andy said. "For EPA to have answered it any other way than in the affirmative would have been to deny, with no basis whatsoever, a fact that is recognized by overwhelming scientific consensus and that is increasingly playing out before our very eyes."
The disapproval resolution will now be referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Murkowski's office said. If the committee doesn't move it within 20 calendar days, it can go before the full Senate with the signatures of 30 senators.