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Murkowski wants to use Gingrich-era trick to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions

12/18/2009

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has announced that she will file a disapproval resolution on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) endangerment finding, which was just made final on Dec. 15.  The disapproval resolution could potentially overturn EPA’s decision on endangerment using a provision of Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America in 1996 called the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  Go here for a detailed description of how the CRA works.

Murkowski claims this action is necessary because without it, EPA would proceed irresponsibly.   “I remain committed to reducing emissions through a policy that will protect our environment and strengthen our economy, but EPA’s backdoor climate regulations achieve neither of those goals,” Murkowski said. “EPA regulation must be taken off the table so that we can focus on more responsible approaches to dealing with global climate change.”

Other Republicans have come out agreeing that this action is impetus to push for climate legislation.  Sen. Lindsey Graham said that to pass the disapproval resolution was to taken on the “obligation” of Congress to act by passing climate legislation.  The truth is climate legislation is at least as complicated and politically difficult to deliver without handing out cash to powerful fossil fuel and nuclear interests. (See earlier post: Solving climate change through oil, nukes, and coal?)

In order to succeed in overturning the EPA decision, Murkowski’s resolution would have to be passed by both the House and the Senate and then signed by the President.  It is unlikely that the resolution could be passed in even one house, and even less likely that the President would sign it, but such an act sends a powerful message about how debate about climate change is still woefully divorced from science.

To vote for this resolution is to say that the technical assessment of the EPA of the best available climate science is wrong.  The endangerment finding only determines whether greenhouse gases threaten public health and safety.  The agency must then evaluate what regulations are necessary to protect public health and safety, all along the way following the requirements of the regulatory process to provide opportunities for public comment.  This process provides ample opportunity for discussion of appropriate action to counter the serious consequences of inaction.

Lena Pons is a transportation policy analyst for Public Citizen.

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