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.”