WASHINGTON – The US Senate this afternoon defeated a bid to limit federal regulation of greenhouse gases, instead siding with the White House and environmentalists who said limiting regulators would harm efforts to fight climate change.
Senator Scott Brown this morning had joined the push to limit powers given to the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act, saying it brings unwarranted regulations that would hurt businesses.
The resolution, which was being pushed by Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, was adamantly opposed by environmental groups, the Obama administration, and Senator John Kerry. Ultimately, it failed by a vote of 47-to-53.
"Why is it that the United States of America is more dependent today on foreign oil than we were before September 11?" Kerry said during a fiery floor speech. "Because we haven't done anything -- nothing -- to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We have an opportunity to do it now. This is about that."
If the measure had passed, it would have disrupted a major argument for his climate change legislation. A key bargaining chip for Kerry has been that the EPA’s regulations would be more far-reaching than Congressional ones. Kerry’s bill would prohibit the EPA from developing its own rules, while instead putting a price on carbon emissions.
The EPA has ruled that greenhouse gases threaten public health, and has imposed new regulations set to take effect next year. Those regulations would require existing plants that increase greenhouse gas emissions by 75,000 tons annually to get a permit. New plants that emit more than 100,000 tons annually would also have to get permits.
“This action would give an unelected and unaccountable government agency the power to impose restrictive and damaging carbon dioxide regulations that will drive up energy prices and hurt job-creating small businesses in our country,” Brown wrote in an op-ed published this morning in the Cape Cod Times. “The bottom line is that we cannot have every restaurant owner or small farmer worried about the costs of complying with new carbon dioxide emissions restrictions.”
Murkowski's resolution had 40 co-sponsors, including three Democrats – Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
“Bay State businesses don't need is the federal government arbitrarily passing down restrictions that would dramatically restrict their potential for growth by saddling them with higher costs,” Brown wrote in the op-ed.
“Now is not the time to further increase energy prices, add to administrative costs for businesses, and create massive new layers of government bureaucracy,” he added.
He also said that unelected administration officials should not be deciding the policy, and that it should instead be debated in Congress.
Americans United for Change, a liberal, Washington-based non-profit, has been running ads in Massachusetts urging Brown to vote against the resolution.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.