Politics

Obama on Budget to Deal with Climate Change

March 4, 2014, 9:38 a.m.

With a cli­mate change bill all but dead for the year, sen­at­ors on both sides of the aisle are weigh­ing tac­tics to block the EPA from reg­u­lat­ing green­house gases — and score polit­ic­al points in the pro­cess.

In the ab­sence of le­gis­la­tion con­trolling car­bon pol­lu­tion, the EPA has au­thor­ity to be­gin com­mand-and-con­trol reg­u­la­tions of fossil fuel emis­sions un­der the Clean Air Act, start­ing in Janu­ary. That’s a night­mare scen­ario for many pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries, par­tic­u­larly coal-fired elec­tric util­it­ies, and dozens of groups have already filed suit against the agency.

Law­makers from coal states are push­ing back hard at the im­pend­ing rule, led by West Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat­ic Sen. John (Jay) Rock­e­feller, who wants to in­tro­duce a bill — be­fore Novem­ber elec­tions — to delay the EPA rules by two years. While Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aides say they doubt the Rock­e­feller lan­guage will reach the Sen­ate floor be­fore Novem­ber, Rock­e­feller said Monday that he hopes to at­tach his lan­guage to a must-pass spend­ing bill. That could stave off a threatened White House veto of the EPA lan­guage, Rock­e­feller said.

“The bill’s go­ing to pass; it’s just a ques­tion of when,” Rock­e­feller said. “I don’t think it will give polit­ic­al lever­age — ex­cept in coal states. We go in­to that with a very good chunk of votes. We need 60. I think we could get them.”

Mean­while, sources close to key con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans such as Ok­lahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and South Car­o­lina Sen. Jim De­Mint said they are plan­ning tac­tics such as re­com­mit­ting oth­er bills to the Sen­ate floor with in­struc­tions for EPA to post­pone car­bon pol­lu­tion rule­mak­ing.

That strategy would re­quire 67 votes to pass — an un­likely scen­ario — but could force mod­er­ate Demo­crats in­to tak­ing an un­com­fort­able vote.

Coburn wouldn’t con­firm wheth­er he in­tends to use the re­com­mit­ting tac­tic, but said that he does in­tend to try something to curb the EPA’s lim­its.

“I’m not sure they have the au­thor­ity un­der the law. It needs to be ad­dressed,” he said.

“We’re look­ing at all op­tions,” said Mis­souri Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Kit Bond, a fel­low con­ser­vat­ive who wants to rein in EPA’s car­bon reg­u­la­tion au­thor­ity. “There’s a mul­ti­tude of ways. Some­body needs to do this.”

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