A Senate attempt to block the EPA from regulating key polluters’ greenhouse gas emissions has failed on a 53-47 vote.
For the June 10 vote, six Democrats — including Arkansas’ Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Sen. Mark Pryor along with Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu — joined all 41 Republicans in backing Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s legislation.
“I had hopes, for the security of our economy, that we would prevail today,” said Murkowski after the vote. “But regardless of the outcome, I believe it’s important that every member of the Senate is on the record on whether they think the EPA regulation is the appropriate way to address climate issues.”
Murkowski warned of an impending “train wreck” if the EPA plans to regulate greenhouse gases (for power companies and cars, among other targets) take effect in early 2011. Meanwhile, President Obama and Democrats complained that the issue has become much too partisan. In the past, Obama has expressed a wish for Congress to act on climate regulations but, failing that, has insisted the EPA will take on the job.
“Today’s vote is yet another reminder of the urgent need to pass legislation that would help America transition to a … clean energy economy that would create jobs, strengthen our national security, and protect our environment for our children,” said Obama, who will send a U.S. contingent to U.N.-sponsored climate talks in Mexico later this year.
The regulatory scuffle was put in motion following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA is responsible for assessing the threat level of rising carbon dioxide levels. In 2009, the EPA risk assessment was finally released and found that, indeed, the nation faces more threats from weather events and rising sea levels. Using the assessment as a foundation, the EPA then began developing the regulations that led to the June 10 Senate vote.
Explaining her vote, Lincoln, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, cited recent economic analysis from the University of Tennessee. The EPA regulations could cost agriculture billions of dollars in losses over the next five years “with the largest declines occurring in crops grown in Arkansas, such as soybeans, cotton and rice. These figures are frightening for agriculture in our state, particularly during a time of recession.
“Furthermore, over 100 agriculture groups have expressed their concerns with EPA regulation of carbon, and expressed their support of the Murkowski (legislation). These groups include national associations for wheat, dairy, corn, cotton, rice, chicken, beef, pork, and eggs. The groups also include many specialty crop growers as well.”