Senate approps Dems prepare to kill EPA climate rules

Breaking: Energy Guardian reports (subs. req’d): “Facing a likely test vote to delay Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas regulations, Senate Democrats Tuesday abruptly canceled plans to draft the agency’s 2011 appropriations measure this week.”

This Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee may vote to block the Obama administration from moving forward with global warming pollution rules. Brad Johnson has the story.

While the Senate dithered and let Republicans kill climate legislation passed last year by the House of Representatives, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun rolling out rules to limit greenhouse gas pollution in the coming years. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) attempt to kill the finding that greenhouse gases are pollution died by a narrow vote of 47–53, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is promoting a two-year moratorium on EPA climate action. Speaking to E&E News, climate peacocks Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) have announced they would potentially support killing EPA rules in the agency’s appropriations bill, to be marked up on Thursday:

“I’d like to see what amendments are offered, and I’ll make a judgment about that,” Dorgan said. “I do think that it makes sense to have some time here to have Congress make the ultimate decision rather than EPA.”

“I supported Murkowski, I’m supporting Rockefeller, so obviously I have inclinations to curtail some of the authority and the actions of the EPA,” Nelson said.

The appropriations committee is split 18–12 in favor of the Democrats, so four Democrats would have to join the anti-science Republican bloc to defend polluters:

Likely candidates besides Nelson and Dorgan include Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), who voted for the Murkowski resolution, and Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is co-sponsoring the Rockefeller proposal. Another possibility is Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who said it was “too complicated” to answer when asked yesterday whether he would support an appropriations bill limiting EPA’s regulations.

It is unclear who would introduce the appropriations amendment. Dorgan and Nelson told reporters “they are not planning to propose amendments themselves,” and Murkowski may still be in Alaska. However, a spokesman for the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), said he “expects to see amendments related to greenhouse gas regulations and offshore drilling.” Sen. Rockefeller told reporters he “has asked Democrats on the Appropriations Committee to sponsor his bill as an amendment.”

Senators are considering this maneuver even though President Obama has threatened a veto of such efforts in the past, and killing climate action does not have 60 votes on the floor. But a rider attached to a key funding bill by a handful of conservatives would be much more difficult for the president to kill. In a statement to the Wonk Room, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Dan Weiss blasts these potential moves:

It is the height of shamelessness that many of the same senators responsible for blocking pollution reductions now want to block EPA from setting pollution limits so Congress has time to act. This hypocrisy, combined with the Republican appropriators’ slavish devotion to big oil, makes it likely this effort will be another skirmish in the war to create jobs, reduce oil use, and slash pollution.

Update: 1Sky’s Liz Butler responds:

As the EPA celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act this week, it is absurd that oil and coal companies and their allies in Congress want us to take a giant step backwards by gutting this landmark environmental law. The Senate must hold fossil fuel interests accountable by protecting the Clean Air Act as a critical tool to reduce global warming pollution and jumpstart investment in a clean energy economy.

This is a Wonk Room cross-post.