Murkowski Resolution Fails, But EPA Climate Change Regulation Still at Risk

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Senator’s failed attempt to dismantle agency’s greenhouse gas regulation fails amidst similar efforts.

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This afternoon, the U.S. Senate rejected, by a vote of 47-53, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) resolution to disapprove the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate change “endangerment finding” under the Clean Air Act. Given that passage of such a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act would have stymied all future EPA climate change regulation, today’s vote will be viewed as a victory for the environment and for the Obama Administration. That 47 Senators voted against EPA’s first step toward regulating greenhouse gases, however, should still give the Administration pause, especially if new climate change legislation will need 60 Senators to overcome a filibuster. Of course, some of the Senators opposing EPA’s current efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions may well support new legislation, especially since virtually everyone agrees that the Clean Air Act is not well-designed to address climate change.

The upshot of today’s vote is that the EPA’s endangerment finding will stand — for now. The endangerment finding, though, does not itself regulate any greenhouse gas emissions. EPA will still need to come forward with additional regulations to address climate change. When it does, similar votes to disapprove may occur in the future. If the Republicans manage to gain four seats in the Senate this November, it is possible that Senator Murkowski may win a future vote disapproving subsequent EPA efforts under the Clean Air Act, but only if EPA’s endangerment finding is not remanded by the courts before then.

EPA dodged a bullet today, but its climate change efforts are not yet out of danger altogether.