Greenhouse Gases are Peachy Keen, 40 Senators Say

Yesterday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and a whopping 39 co-sponsors introduced a resolution that would disapprove the Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution was introduced in accordance with the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a 1996 law that gives Congress an opportunity to veto agency regulations. The CRA gives these resolutions special status in the Senate, placing restrictions on committee consideration and limiting floor debate, thereby prohibiting filibusters. (See this post for more on the CRA process.)

Two critical things had to happen for the resolution to enjoy special privileges. First, it needed to be introduced within 60 days (excluding days Congress is in recess) after it was published in the Federal Register. Second, it needs to use the boilerplate language specified in the CRA:

'That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the XX relating to XX, and such rule shall have no force or effect.' (The blank spaces being appropriately filled in). 

Murkowski followed both instructions precisely. (Congressional Quarterly has a draft version of the resolution here.)

It’s important to keep in mind that EPA’s endangerment finding is not regulation per se. It does not impose new requirements on polluters or consumers. Yes, it sets off a legal trigger under the Clean Air Act that obliges EPA to regulate vehicle and industrial emissions in the future (proposals the agency is working on), but the actual endangerment finding simply represents EPA’s thinking on greenhouse gases’ impact on health and the environment. From the finding:

The Administrator finds that six greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations. The Administrator also finds that the combined emissions of these greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas air pollution that endangers public health and welfare under [the Clean Air Act]. 

If these 40 senators really oppose EPA regulation, as they claim, why not wait until EPA actually regulates. By coming out in opposition to the endangerment finding, the senators are essentially telling EPA – and the majority of Americans – that they are wrong: greenhouse gases are not a problem for human health or the environment.

Those of us who do worry about the impact of greenhouse gases can take solace in the fact that the Murkowski resolution will never survive. It may very well pass the Senate; but even if it does somehow make it through the House, President Obama will surely veto it.

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