UPDATE 1-US House passes bill to stop EPA climate program

Thu Apr 7, 2011 4:59pm EDT

* Vote largely symbolic after Senate shunned similar bill

* Moves to stop EPA could come up again later this year (Adds details on vote, budget clash)

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions of gases blamed for warming the planet, a day after the Senate rejected similar legislation.

The bill passed by a vote of 255 to 172 in the Republican-controlled chamber. The victory was largely symbolic, however, since the Senate voted down four amendments on Wednesday that would stop or delay implementation of the EPA rules, which began rolling out in January. [ID:nN06270263]

The White House has also said President Barack Obama would veto any legislation that would permanently stop the EPA's climate regulation.

But Republicans, who say the rules will add costs to big polluters like oil refineries and power plants that could be passed to consumers as they try to recover from the economic downturn, called the vote a victory for families.

"Our thoughtful, bipartisan solution reins in an EPA gone wild whose bureaucrats are oblivious to the nation's economic woes and soaring unemployment," Upton said.

The budget clash in Congress that could shut down the government unless a deal is reached by midnight Friday hinges on ideological battles over the EPA regulation of the gases and abortion. [ID:nN07296632].

Analysts said the debate could also heat up again later this year when the EPA proposes more rules that would limit emissions from power plants in July and on oil refineries by December.

"The odds are still pretty good that the EPA rules will at least gets delayed before the end of the year," said Whitney Stanco, an energy policy analyst at MF Global.

Lawmakers could try to add measures to future legislation that would delay the rules for a number of years.

The EPA has said its rules on polluters will create jobs, protect health, and reduce dependence on foreign oil by pressuring companies to move faster to cleaner forms of energy.

The agency expects to finalize the new rules on power plants and refiners next year.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Deborah Charles)