November may bring clean air bill solution
Last week the Senate Democrats defeated a bipartisan bill that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under provisions of the Clean Air Act.
Supporters of a similar proposal in the House of Representatives say the defeat will increase momentum for their effort, but admit that getting such a bill passed will be an uphill battle.
From the outset, prospects for the bill were dim. Assuming a bill passed out of both houses, President Barack Obama had promised to veto the measure.
After the bill's defeat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped to push debate on a comprehensive climate bill to the floor in the next few weeks. The House narrowly passed a climate bill after considerable deal-making last year.
In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and ordered the agency to conduct a scientific review. Even as the House began working on its bill last spring, the EPA announced its finding that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution and endanger public health, opening their regulation under the Clean Air Act.
Almost immediately there were calls in both chambers to strip the EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases under the act. Though the Senate resolution garnered the votes of every Republican and six Democrats, it fell four votes shy of getting the 51 votes necessary for passage.
The near-term prospects for some legislated solution are grim. The House climate bill passed by a very slim margin. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., need 60 votes to get their climate proposal passed. To get there, they need every Democrat, both independents, and at least one Republican. So far, they don't have all of the Democrats.
Some Democrats from coal and oil states balk at passing a big, job-killing bill, particularly so close to an election. Even if the Senate did pass a bill, it would have to be reconciled with the House measure, which in turn could unravel the sweetheart deals that made it possible in the first place.
Whether passed by the Congress or handed down by the administration, climate regulation is guaranteed to cost American citizens and businesses billions in higher energy costs, fees and taxes at a time when the economy is struggling to recover. By most accounts, neither will have any significant impact on the earth's temperature.
We still believe legislation is better than regulation imposed by fiat. The administration says it agrees, but isn't going to voluntarily cede its authority to ram expensive controls down our throats and further its agenda.
We hold out hope that November's elections will provide a Congress more agreeable to common sense solutions.