Republicans Look To Defeat Power Plant "Clean Air"
- The Senate Environment Committee yesterday narrowly
passed a bill that would impose the first-ever limits
on emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the
United States, but Republicans called the measure dead
before it gets to the Senate floor.
The panel voted 10-9 largely along party lines to send
to the full Senate the "Clean Power Act," which also sets
strict caps on three other pollutants spewed by many U.S.
pollutants from electricity generating plants have been
linked to asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.
Sen. Jim Jeffords, an independent who chairs the panel,
placed himself on a collision course with the Bush administration
by proposing a 23-percent reduction in carbon dioxide
emissions by 2008.
vote was the culmination of negotiations with lawmakers,
green groups and industry that began last year.
action sends a clear message to this administration that
the Senate is willing to engage on clean air and climate
change," Jeffords said.
Bush administration has vehemently opposed any cap on
carbon dioxide emissions on the grounds the cost of complying
would be devastating to U.S. industry.
this month, the administration quietly released a report
that affirmed the probable harmful effect of greenhouse
gases, which are on the rise from human activities, but
President George W. Bush dismissed it as a product of
opposition to the bill will weigh heavily on its prospects
for approval by the full Senate, even though Majority
Leader Tom Daschle has indicated support.
major revisions, a Senate vote is unlikely before Congress
adjourns in early October, a congressional aide said.
bill is dead," Republican Sen. George Voinovich said in
a statement, calling Jeffords' decision to press forward
on a committee vote a "political charade."
votes are here on the committee ... but they're not there
on the Senate floor," said Robert Smith, a New Hampshire
Republican. "They're not even close."
said the bill can survive a Republican assault.
do not agree that all hope is gone," Jeffords told reporters,
adding he expects 52 senators to support his bill.
is short of the 60-vote minimum needed under Senate rules
to end a filibuster and allow a vote on the measure. But
Jeffords said he was heartened by indications from some
panel Republicans that action on carbon dioxide is needed.
Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust,
called the vote a "historic first step on global warming."
the bill would cut emissions of acid rain-causing sulfur
dioxide and smog-forming nitrogen oxides far beyond the
levels proposed by the White House in February. The legislation
also would set first-time limits on mercury emissions.
utilities are trying to cut emissions, but the Senate
bill sets an untenable pace, said the Edison Electric
Institute, an industry group. "The question isn't whether
we make further reductions, but rather how far we go and
how fast," said Quin Shea, executive director of the institute.
HOUSE SUBPOENA DELAYED
Jeffords backed off his threat to call a vote to subpoena
the White House for documents about its decision to relax
air pollution rules for aging coal-fired power plants.
said would give the administration more time after receiving
assurances from the Environmental Protection Agency that
it would turn over some documents by July 3.
subpoenas could still be issued if the administration
does not cooperate, he said.
administration continues to have concerns about providing
certain pre-decisional documents to Congress" before the
rules have been finalized, EPA Administrator Christine
Todd Whitman wrote to Jeffords in a letter dated June
opposes changes in the administration's so-called "new
source review" regulations to give old utilities and refineries
more leeway in repairing and expanding old plants without
buying costly equipment to control air emissions.
utility pollution proposal sets a 2017 deadline to cut
sulfur dioxide emissions to 4.5 million tons, nitrogen
oxide to 2.1 million tons and mercury to 26 tons.
stricter plan would set a 2008 deadline for utilities
to hit a 1.98 million-ton sulfur dioxide cap in the eastern
United States and a 275,000-ton cap for the western region.
It would set a nationwide 1.51 million-ton cap for nitrogen
oxides, and 5 tons for mercury.
Baucus, a Montana Democrat, crossed party lines to vote
against the bill, while Rhode Island Republican Lincoln
Chafee voted for it. Baucus said the bill would have a
"devastating" impact on his state's economy, which is
both a heavy producer and consumer of coal.