Resolution on greenhouse gases fails, could boost energy bill

The Senate voted down a resolution Thursday that would have stripped the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined by other Senate colleagues, talks about her efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing greenhouse gas regulations, during a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. is at left.

Democrats and environmentalists took satisfaction in the defeat in the US Senate Thursday of a resolution that would have stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

The defeat – 47 votes to 53 – was a boost for supporters of comprehensive energy-climate legislation. Sens. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut have floated such legislation, but it won't be considered until next month.

“The Senate made the right decision today but the big question is what comes now,” Senators Kerry and Lieberman said in a joint statement. “Many supporters of the Murkowski resolution argued passionately that climate change is real but that addressing it is a job for Congress not the EPA. We hope they will now engage with us ....”

Environmentalists cheered the move, too.

“Today the Senate voted down a misguided step backwards," Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "Now it needs to continue moving forward, this summer, to pass comprehensive legislation that curbs our dependence on oil, puts limits on carbon pollution, and puts America on the path to a clean energy future.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska – the sponsor of the resolution – said the vote was useful in making it clear where senators stood on the issue. In fact, that may have been the main aim, especially since midterm elections are approaching.

"I had hopes, for the security of our economy, that we would prevail today," Senator Murkowski said in a statement. "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."

Every Republican voted for the measure, while six swing-vote Democrats joined them. But with just one coal-state Democrat, John Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia, voting for it, some interpreted the result as positive for the Kerry-Lieberman energy-climate bill.

"Today's vote provided two meaningful insights into prospects for climate legislation," Kevin Book, an energy analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington energy-policy consulting firm, wrote in an e-letter. In the vote result, he wrote, was the kernel of a "pro-drilling, pro-safety compromise that provides political ‘containment’ of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill."

In turn, he writes, such a compromise bill could win support from coal-state Democrats, especially those that voted against the Murkowski measure. They and "other green-leaning Republicans [such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina] may find themselves with the opportunity to negotiate even greater provisions on behalf of their constituents in return for offering the decisive votes [out of 60 needed] in support of passage."


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