Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Sen. Murkowski invokes rarely used law in attempt to rein in EPA regulation

FAIRBANKS - The U.S. Senate will vote this week on a resolution that would stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Alaska's senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, is the leading sponsor of the resolution, called a disapproval resolution, which is scheduled for 10 hours of debate Thursday on the Senate floor.

Murkowski, a Republican, said she is chiefly concerned with the negative economic impact EPA regulation of carbon dioxide could have on Alaska, a position that has brought protests from environmental groups.

"There has been a great deal of misinformation spread about my effort by groups - almost all of which are based outside of Alaska - who want to cut the emissions blamed for climate change no matter what the cost," Murkowski said in a statement released last week.

"My only interest is protecting my constituents. Alaskans know that TAPS is vital to our economy, we know that construction of a natural gas pipeline figures hugely into our future as a state, and it's becoming clear that both of these projects are threatened by EPA efforts to unilaterally expand the Clean Air Act."

Murkowsk energy spokesman Robert Dillon said the resolution is not about debating the science behind climate change, but stopping an "out of control" government agency.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was violating the Clean Air Act by not regulating greenhouse gases, but the agency did not finalize its endangerment finding - necessary before it begins regulating the gases - until December.

Officially, the EPA found levels of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations."

That finding could lead to regulation of everything from automobile emissions to fish processors and power plants.

However, under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can disapprove of the finding and block it if Murkowski's resolution passes the Senate and House with majorities and is signed by the president. Murkowski introduced the resolution in January.

But even if the resolution gets through the Senate, it is expected to have a much harder time in the House.

So far, the disapproval resolution has gained 40 co-sponsors, including three Democrats. Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is not one of them. Begich has said he does not plan to support the resolution.

Begich spokesman Max Croes said the senator received assurances from the EPA that the agency will not begin regulating large greenhouse gas emitters until late 2011, and those who put less than 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air will not be regulated by the EPA until 2016 at the earliest.

"In the long run, EPA regulation will not be the most cost-effective way of addressing the problem," Croes said. "The timeline presented by the administrator allows Congress to make considered decisions to balance climate change remedies with their effect on our economy. (Begich) supports Congressional legislation which can more effectively balance these two concerns."

Such legislation could create incentives to develop natural gas resources, bolster national security and also create millions of jobs, Croes said.

However, Dillon said even if the EPA delays regulating greenhouse gases for years, any regulation could severely impact the Alaska and U.S. economies.

And even if the U.S. were to cut greenhouse gases, he said that will do little to stop global warming by itself.

"The key is that it has to be global," he said. "Unless every country agrees to cut emissions, it doesn't matter we do as a country."

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Source: By Chris Freiberg. Published June 07, 2010