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With Anti-EPA Votes on Hold, Nervous Dems and Green Groups Make Appeals

Four amendments to curb EPA's ability to cut CO2 are on the table, causing anxiety among many, though observers wonder if the votes will ever occur

By Elizabeth McGowan

Apr 4, 2011
Senator Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON—For weeks, a slew of conservative senators has been crowing about crippling EPA's ability to curb carbon with the Clean Air Act.

Now, however, observers are curious if those much-ballyhooed votes will ever occur.

Fervent vows to act last Wednesday were pushed off to Thursday — and then beyond. No doubt, that latest lack of action was due mostly to political gamesmanship, plus fears about the headlines that could have circulated Friday — April Fools' Day.

Whatever the reason, progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders couldn't stand idly by as some of his fellow Democrats and Republicans threatened to bludgeon his cherished Clean Air Act to an unrecognizable hue of black and blue.

The Vermont independent corralled 33 other members of the Democratic caucus into supporting touting the benefits of the 41-year-old measure.

"It is absolutely unconscionable that in the year 2011 the Congress is debating amendments to gut the Clean Air Act and I am going to fight back," Sanders Thursday. "I also think that at a time when House Republicans might force a government shutdown unless the EPA backs down from protecting public health, we must not let the budget process be used to deregulate polluters."

Drawing on data collected by the and other organizations, Sanders credited the landmark law with saving 160,000 Americans from premature death every year and helping to avoid tens of thousands of cases of lung disease, heart attacks and emergency room visits.

Even as the economy grew by 64 percent during the last two decades, he added, the act also has reduced major air pollution by 41 percent.

"Somehow our political environment has become so divorced from reality, facts, science and history that today even a commonsense law like the Clean Air Act can be used as a partisan punching bag," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said in support of Sanders's effort. "This resolution showcases just some of the Clean Air Act's many achievements, and I hope it will remind my colleagues that under this law we were able to grow our economy and cut harmful pollution that threatens our families."

Inside-the-Beltway Antics Abound

Environmental organizations operated in hyper-alert mode during an especially tense week in the nation's capital.

For example, the circulated an electronic missive with the headline "" That March 29 warning urged voters to contact their senators "now before it's too late."

The action alert refers to senators' attempts to gum up a small business assistance bill that would in one way or another put the kibosh on the EPA's edict from the Supreme Court to control heat-trapping gases. In all, four varying amendments are on the table.

GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is modeled after legislation fashioned by Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking member of the , that would permanently bar EPA from regulating CO2. Even if the minority leader can't gain the 60 votes needed in an upper chamber with a 53-47 Democratic majority, he wants to apply pressure to swing state Democrats up for re-election next year.

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