WASHINGTON — Eight Democratic senators from industrial states want Congress — not the Environmental Protection Agency — to regulate pollution blamed for global warming, saying the issue has big implications for thousands of U.S. jobs and businesses.
In a letter written by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the lawmakers challenge the EPA's efforts to restrict greenhouse gases from stationary sources such as power plants, factories and mines.
Opposition to EPA regulations by Democrats could pose a serious blow to the Obama administration's effort to restrict heat-trapping greenhouse gases. While the administration is still pushing for Congress to pass a comprehensive climate bill this year, officials have not ruled out controlling greenhouse gases through regulation.
The letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was signed by Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Carl Levin of Michigan and Max Baucus of Montana.
The Democrats said they did not object to EPA regulation of emissions from cars and light trucks, but questioned the agency's ability to do anything further under the Clean Air Act. The letter asked Jackson to clarify the EPA's timetable and suspend any regulations for coal-fired utilities and other industrial facilities until Congress acts on climate and energy legislation.
Jackson said late Monday that regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will not begin before January at the earliest.
For the first half of 2011, only large polluters that already must apply for Clean Air Act permits will need to address greenhouse gas emissions, Jackson said in a letter to the Democratic senators.
"I share your goals of ensuring economic recovery at this critical time and of addressing greenhouse-gas emissions in sensible ways that are consistent with the call for comprehensive energy and climate legislation," she wrote.
Last month, Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas signed onto a resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would bar the EPA from issuing regulations to control greenhouse gases.
Murkowski said Monday she welcomed the letter from her Democratic colleagues and noted that 41 senators from both parties support her resolution to halt EPA's actions.
Murkowski filed it in response to an EPA finding in December that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger human health. The EPA finding clears the way for rules that eventually could force the sale of more fuel-efficient vehicles and require plants to install costly new equipment or shift to other forms of energy.
Murkowski said her resolution remains the best opportunity for senators to weigh in before the EPA acts.
"It's a simple issue: Senators either support EPA imposing these regulations without input from Congress, or they don't," she said.
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