Senate Fights For EPA’s CO2 Regulation Power

  • Published on September 26th, 2009

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tried to gut the EPA powers to regulate carbon emissions.In the midst of a week when climate change finally stole back some of the spotlight that had been hogged by health care reform for months, the Senate fought off a potentially devastating attempt to emasculate the EPA and its recently won power to regulate greenhouse gases.


Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican of Alaska) tried to sneak in an amendment to the EPA fiscal 2010 spending bill that would have limited the agency’s ability to regulate emissions to only mobile sources. This means that stationary sources like power plants and factories would fall outside EPA’s jurisdiction. On Thursday, though, Senate Democrats blocked the amendment, to the delight of a number of environmental groups and really anyone who is paying attention.

There is a general agreement that the EPA’s power to regulate emissions — based on a 2007 Supreme Court case and an “endangerment finding” earlier this year — should not be the biggest stick wielded in this fight, but to randomly limit the agency’s powers with no clear purpose undermines the system in general. If Waxman-Markey or a similar (or better, if some of us had our way) bill is passed, regulation by the EPA will become less of an issue, but there is still plenty of reason to leave the potential alone. Several regulatory moves have already been made, and as an editorial in the New York Times points out, allowing the evisceration of the EPA to happen sends a strong signal to the world in the months leading up to Copenhagen that, well, we don’t care about getting this right.

So, well done, Senate. Now hurry up and pass some climate legislation.

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Dave is a science writer focusing on science, health and the environment. You can find other examples of his work at Follow him on Twitter @davelevitan.