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EPA Chief Takes the Hot Seat As Fight to Block Climate Rules Intensifies

Legislators intent on blocking the EPA from controlling CO2 emissions are fishing around for a coalition-building bill that can gain traction

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 9, 2011

Though several prognosticators predict that a bill along the lines of what Upton is proposing could pass in the House, Doniger of the NRDC is a naysayer. He worked for the EPA in the 1990s during the Clinton administration.

"I don't think the Upton bill will pass in the House," he said, adding that it will have a "bad smell about it" in the public opinion polls that support the EPA's use of the Clean Air Act.

It's anybody's guess whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has the wherewithal to garner enough votes in the upper chamber. Although President Obama has previously said he would veto this type of legislation, it's difficult to tell if either chamber has the votes to override it.

Democratic senators such as Barbara Boxer of California, who won re-election to a fourth term last November, are at liberty to lambaste legislative efforts to hamstring the EPA's authority.

"Bipartisan environmental laws are now under attack," the chairwoman of the said after Inhofe and Upton revealed their intentions. "EPA's common-sense steps to address carbon pollution follow the law and the Supreme Court decision that the agency must consider this threat. Congress should not turn its back on the American people by prohibiting EPA from doing its job to address carbon pollution."

Five other fellow committee members joined her in issuing pro-EPA statements. They include Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, as well as Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Ben Cardin of Maryland.

Even though several of those senators are up for re-election in 2012, their seats are likely safe. However, Democratic senators from coal-burning, swing states up for re-election in 2012 are taking a more cautious approach toward this type of legislation. For instance, Washington insiders say trackers should watch senators such as Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who was recently replaced on the environment committee, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  

Where EPA Stands Now

Congressional Republicans and lobbyists such as Joshua Zive of repeatedly predict that the EPA’s efforts to control emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants at the utility level alone will cause a regulatory "train wreck."

But environmentalists call that metaphor a scare tactic. They counter that having all the trains pull into the station simultaneously simply makes it easier to transfer from one line to another.

A Supreme Court ruling in April 2007, , gave the agency authority to treat greenhouse gases as a pollutant.

All 50 states are now expected to comply with the that stemmed from that ruling and kicked in Jan. 2. That first phase is geared for new or modified coal-fired electricity plants, factories and cement production facilities that emit at least 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases annually. It requires states to determine if these stationary emitters can qualify for federal permits.

Last December, agency authorities announced that this year they will issue proposed scientifically based performance standards for two sectors responsible for about two-thirds of greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources. The timeline calls for final standards for new and modified utilities to be issued by May 2012 and for oil refineries by November 2012.

Rockefeller Seems Tame in Comparison

When compared to the other two bills, Rockefeller's "" seems quite tame. He reintroduced it Jan. 31 after it faded away in last year's lame-duck session.

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