Senate Upholds EPA’s Authority to Regulate Carbon Emissions
In a vote that could have powerful implications for the fate of energy and climate legislation, the Senate voted down a resolution that would have prevented the EPA from regulating carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act, Politico reported on Thursday. By rejecting the resolution, the Senate has cleared the way for the EPA to regulate emissions unless climate legislation is passed that would preempt the EPA’s power.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), who proposed the resolution, has been working to restrict the EPA’s power since September. The resolution would have vetoed the EPA’s endangerment finding, which concluded that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health and therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski garnered the support of all Republicans and a handful of Democrats who claimed that EPA regulation would kill jobs and represented what Murkowski called a “power grab” on the part of the administration.
While the EPA has preserved its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the narrow margin of the resolution’s defeat could be a victory for opponents of climate legislation. The resolution lost by a vote of 47-53; as the New York Times noted in a preview of the vote, if nearly fifty senators vote to reverse the EPA’s finding then how could controversial and far-reaching climate legislation win the support of 60 senators, the number needed to override a filibuster?
Legislation that restricts carbon emissions, whether through cap and trade or some other means, will increase the costs of energy producers and those costs will likely be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for heating oil, gasoline, and other fuels. However, in the absence of climate legislation the EPA will likely move ahead with regulation and could cut carbon emissions at even greater cost to both producers and consumers.