Did Americans reject clean energy by voting Republican?
US environmentalists concede disappointment at the GOP's surge, but say the defeat of California Prop. 23 shows voters were motivated by the economy and not a rejection of clean energy.
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Beyond more gas and oil drilling on public lands, House Republicans are also expected to use their new oversight authority to require EPA chief Lisa Jackson to come to the Hill frequently to explain to committees why, exactly, her agency is proceeding with plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions.Skip to next paragraph
At the same time, in the US Senate, Republican gains may have given them enough votes to make an expected strong push to squelch the Environmental Protection Agency's fledgling efforts to clamp down nationwide on greenhouse gas emissions from big smokestack emitters like power plants. Regulation of those emitters begins Jan 2.
A June proposal by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska to remove from the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases won just 47 of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Even with more Republicans, such a measure would likely be two or three votes short, some analysts said. Yet a resolution by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia to delay implementation of the EPA's regulations by at least two years remains a potent possibility, experts say.
"The net effect of EPA regulation could be to disrupt more jobs than the stimulus programs has created," says Scott Segal, an attorney representing energy and manufacturing clients for the Washington law firm Bracewell and Giuliani. "We can't have that. So, I'm fairly certain there are more than the required number of votes needed to delay EPA regulations for at least 2 years if not more."
But environmentalists said it would be a mistake for Republicans to interpret the election victory as a repudiation of much more than economic policy.
"They want the administration and Congress to work together to get things done," says Wesley Warren, director of programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But it would be a mistake for the incoming Congress to think they have a mandate to turn back a generation of clean air and environmental protections. If they do that, they'll find themselves facing a wave of public opposition."