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Senate Rejects Bid to Stymie EPA Climate Regs

A measure that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing its rules on greenhouse gas emissions failed today in the U.S. Senate. The proposal, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), needed 60 votes to pass, but the long-delayed vote was 50 to 50. At presstime the House was voting on its version of the measure; it was expected to pass easily.

The measure was an amendment attached to a bill on helping small businesses, including a provision to extend a long-running research program.

Another amendment that would have put the EPA rules on greenhouse gases on hold for 2 years also failed by a vote of 12 to 88. "What I want is some breathing space," said its sponsor, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). But that argument didn't sway those who wanted a permanent ban. "If you're going to have root canal, does it really help to wait 2 years?" Inhofe asked.

Lawmakers in both chambers debated whether defanging EPA amounted to an attack on climate science. Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act. Under that law, EPA must determine scientifically that the gases present a danger to health and welfare. Without that determination, the agency cannot use the law to regulate the gases. But the McConnell-Inhofe amendment and the House version would nullify that scientific determination.

Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) said that the House version of the measure was a "clear rejection of science." Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) went further: "Last I heard, we cannot change the laws of science."

But Republicans said it was not a matter of science. "It is up to us to decide whether the Clean Air Act is the proper vehicle to regulate greenhouse gases," said Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who added that the bill would stop job-killing regulations. "This is not a debate on the underlying science of climate change."

The White House's statement on the rejection of the McConnell-Inhofe measure follows:

The administration is encouraged by the Senate's actions today to defend the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect public health under the Clean Air Act. By rejecting efforts to rollback EPA's common-sense steps to safeguard Americans from harmful pollution, the Senate also rejected an approach that would have increased the nation's dependence on oil, contradicted the scientific consensus on global warming, and jeopardized America's ability to lead the world in the clean energy economy. The Clean Air Act is a vital tool in protecting our families - particularly children - from a wide variety of harmful pollutants that cause asthma and lung disease, and the administration remains committed to protecting this important law.