Congress to rewrite rules on emissions

GOP seeks to strip EPA’s power

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Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill announced separate plans this week to try to block the Obama administration from unilaterally imposing limits on greenhouse gas emissions, ratcheting up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold a vote.

Republicans in both chambers are writing proposals to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, while a group of Democratic senators this week reintroduced legislation forcing a two-year delay on EPA’s regulations, saying that would give Congress time to write its own rules.

Taken together, they signal a full-court press in Congress to try to prevent the Obama administration from imposing rules on its own.

“We can address emissions and secure a future for the U.S. coal industry, but we need the time to get it right and to move clean-coal technology forward,” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who, along with six fellow Democrats from conservative-leaning states, introduced the two-year pause.

Republicans want to go further and take away the EPA authority that was granted by a 2007 court ruling.

** FILE ** Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, accompanied by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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** FILE ** Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, accompanied by ... more >

“The last thing Americans need is a national energy tax that would kill more jobs. The Clean Air Act was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases, and the EPA must be stopped from making decisions that circumvent Congress,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, who introduced legislation to restrict the EPA.

The top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Environment and Public Works committees released draft legislation Wednesday to accomplish the same goals.

The Republicans, in a statement, said a two-year pause would leave industries in an uncertain position and could put decisions in the hands of bureaucrats. The legislation they are proposing would overturn the 2007 court ruling.

The bill in the GOP-led House is likely to pass with the support of leaders including Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, whose spokesman called the EPA regulations “a job-destroying de facto national energy tax.”

House passage would put pressure on Mr. Reid. The Nevada Democrat must decide whether to allow a vote on a measure that could embarrass Mr. Obama and put members of his own party on the spot.

A spokesman for Mr. Reid, Jon Summers, was noncommittal, saying that the top Democrat “is talking with his caucus about our legislative priorities and the timing of specific bills we will bring to the floor.”

Mr. Reid promised Mr. Rockefeller a vote on his proposal last year, but that never materialized.

Rockefeller spokeswoman Linsey Godbey the senator has “a great relationship with the leader’s office and they know that we really want to see a vote on this.”

The fight over the EPA’s regulatory reach has raged for years but intensified in 2009 after the agency announced that six gases, including carbon dioxide, pose a danger to the environment and the health of Americans and that it would draft regulations to reduce those emissions.

The EPA released its “endangerment finding” as a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that carbon dioxide and other gases should be considered pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

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