Bureau of National Affairs (BNA): Murkowski Seeks Information on Opposition By EPA to Greenhouse Gas Amendment

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wrote Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Oct. 7 questioning Jackson's opposition to an amendment Murkowski had filed in the Senate to temporarily suspend EPA authority over greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

According to the letter, EPA staff failed to respond to Murkowski's request for analysis of her amendment to the appropriations bill funding EPA and other environmental agencies, but the staff did contact outside entities and tell them that the lawmaker's amendment would make it difficult for the entities to obtain permits.

Murkowski's letter asked for “a complete list of all individuals and businesses that were contacted by EPA staff about the potential impacts of my amendment.”

Murkowski filed an amendment to a fiscal 2010 appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) for EPA and other agencies that would have suspended for a year EPA's ability under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

The Senate passed the bill Sept. 24 without voting on Murkowski's amendment.

Senator Serves on Conference Committee.

Murkowski was appointed by the Senate to the conference committee to reconcile the Senate bill with the House-passed version (185 DER A-24, 9/28/09).

“EPA's evolving series of assertions about the impacts of my amendment were not only regrettable, they were thoroughly avoidable,” Murkowski said.

EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy said in a statement, “EPA is currently reviewing Senator Murkowski's letter and will respond to her in a timely manner.”

Murkowski said the aim of her amendment was to confine EPA's carbon dioxide regulations to mobile sources for one year “to ensure the Senate's debate on climate change could proceed without the threat of economically-damaging regulations materializing in the meantime.”

EPA and the Department of Transportation Sept. 15 announced a proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. The agencies expect to issue final rules in March 2010 (177 DER A-10, 9/16/09).

Imposition of the rules for mobile sources would trigger requirements for controlling emissions from stationary sources as well. EPA announced a proposal Sept. 30 that would “tailor” those requirements, allowing the agency to focus primarily on stationary source greenhouse gas emissions on sources that emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year (188 DER AA-1, 10/1/09).

Murkowski said her amendment was carefully tailored to ensure it would not affect the car and light-truck proposal.

“Despite this, your agency told people my amendment would have the opposite effect,” Murkowski said.

Jackson wrote a letter Sept. 23 to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was managing the appropriations bill on the Senate floor, saying that the Murkowski amendment would “pull the plug” on the car and light-truck proposal.

“This conclusion runs contrary to my legal interpretation of my amendment, all counsel I received, and the amendment's explicit wording,” said Murkowski, who then asked Jackson for a written explanation of the legal analysis of her amendment as stated to Feinstein.

EPA's Intentions Questioned.

Murkowski questioned EPA's intention to limit regulation of stationary source greenhouse gas emissions to sources above 25,000 tons per year. She noted that the Clean Air Act requires regulations under the prevention-of-significant-deterioration program to be applied to sources of more than 250 tons per year and said the 25,000-ton threshold “will not stand.”

The EPA proposal justified the 25,000-ton threshold on the legal doctrines of “absurd results” and “administrative necessity.” In addition, the proposal discussed applying requirements on smaller sources on a five-year time line, but “streamlining” the requirements to minimize the burden they place on those sources.

Murkowski asked if this shows that EPA believes it cannot ignore the 250-ton threshold in the Clean Air Act. She also asked for legal justification for “EPA altering the plain language of the Clean Air Act without an amendment to that statute” by Congress.

She also asked for details on measures to streamline requirements for smaller sources, and to phase them in over five years, and for analysis of the economic impact from greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act.

The letter from Sen. Murkowski to EPA Administrator Jackson is available at http://pub.bna.com/ptcj/EPAletter.pdf.

Source: Originally published on October 09, 2009