Democrats block bill to delay US clean air rules

Thu Nov 3, 2011 5:20pm EDT

* Bill would have delayed controls on industrial boilers

* Senate vote shows House Republicans may face roadblocks

* Joe Manchin lone Democrat to vote for bill

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Democrats on Thursday blocked the first major bill in the U.S. Senate that would have delayed the Environmental Protection Agency's clean air rules.

The bill, which needed 60 votes to pass, got only 47 votes. Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who faces reelection next year, was the lone Democrat to vote for the bill. His state is rich in coal, the fuel that could see added costs from a raft of upcoming EPA rules on power plants and industry.

The lone Republican to vote against the bill was Olympia Snowe of Maine.

The bill, called the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 and sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch, was promoted by Republicans as a jobs measure that would have allowed businesses to hire by reducing regulatory uncertainty.

Democrats disagreed. "This is not a jobs bill," said Senator Barbara Boxer, the chairman of the chamber's Committee on Environment and Public Works. "If you can't breathe, you can't work."

The bill contained two measures to block EPA controls on toxic emissions from industrial boilers and cement factories.

Environmentalists said the vote in the Senate showed that the battle being waged in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to roll back EPA rules could face roadblocks in the upper chamber.

"We're glad the Senate took steps today to stop this kind of madness, and we hope we see more of this from all levels and branches of our government," Earthjustice associate legislative counsel Stephanie Maddin said in an email.

The House passed a wide-ranging bill to delay clean air rules in September. [ID:nS1E78M1HT] Republicans hope to attach some of those measures to a spending bill or other legislation that would be hard for Democrats to vote against. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Jim Marshall)