Centrist Senate Democrats are pushing back against the Environmental Protection Agencys recent move to begin regulating greenhouse gases and are warning that the agency risks overstepping its bounds even as the House is taking the EPAs action as a signal to move expeditiously on its own climate change bill.
Im very concerned about their unilaterally moving forward, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said. If alphabet agencies can do what they want without regard to what Congress believes, theres something wrong with the system. In other words, just because we cant get something through the Senate or the House or cant get something done through Congress as a whole, doesnt justify an alphabet agency jumping out and doing it on their own, even if they believe they have the authority to do it.
Both moderate Democrats and Republicans have been concerned that regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will increase energy costs for consumers, and they have made a series of moves to try to temper whatever climate change legislation moves through Congress this year. But one of their biggest fears has been that the EPA would move
forward on the issue without Congressional input.
I do think that there will be a sense that Congress should make these determinations and not one of the agencies to set the broad policy for the country, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said. It puts the onus on us to do something and if we dont, it sounds like the EPA, theyre going to.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), whose state is reeling from job losses, also said she doesnt support the EPA moving ahead on its own.
It is much better to do something legislatively, she said. I would much rather see a balanced approach.
The EPAs declaration last week that greenhouse gases represent a public health threat is the first step to regulating emissions that are blamed for global warming, which scientists say is responsible for increased droughts, stronger floods and storms, and a rise in sea levels, among other threats to the environment.
That decision has been seen as a signal that the Obama administration is prepared to play hardball on the issue of climate change, and it puts pressure on moderate Democrats nervous about voting in the midst of a recession on a cap-and-trade plan that could increase costs throughout the economy.
The Democrats, in some ways, are using that as a good cop, bad cop routine, saying that if we dont do something up here, the evil EPA is going to do it, said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who added that he is concerned both the EPA and Democrats in the White House and Congress are overreaching and moving too far to the left on climate policy.
Whether or not the Obama administration is using the EPA to goose the Senate into action, centrist Democrats are clearly alarmed. However, many said they have not yet mapped out a plan of action.
Nelson said he would likely wait to see what the EPA comes up with, but he warned that Congress must be heard on the issue.
Theyre not going to run the government, Nelson said. They administer but theyre not going to make policy or set policy. ... Its not up to them.
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