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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency chief fought back on Monday against Senate attempts to challenge the agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, saying delaying action would be bad for the economy.
President Barack Obama has long said the EPA would take steps to regulate greenhouse gases if Congress failed to pass climate legislation. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate amid opposition from fossil fuel-rich states.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from oil-producing Alaska, has introduced legislation to stop EPA from taking steps under the Clean Air Act on climate pollution from tailpipes and smokestacks.
"Supposedly these efforts have been put forward to protect jobs," Lisa Jackson told a meeting at the National Press Club. "In reality, they will have serious negative economic effects."
Jackson said industry needs clear signals from the U.S. government on greenhouse gas regulations. Otherwise investors would have "little incentive" to put money into clean energy jobs. The country would fall further behind other countries in the race for clean energy, which would hurt the economy, she added.
Jackson said if EPA's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions was stopped, rules to make cars and light trucks become more efficient would be put on hold. That would leave "American automakers once again facing a patchwork of state standards," that could hurt profits at the companies which have experienced hard times already.
Democratic Senator John Rockefeller has also introduced a bill that would force a two-year delay on any EPA action, not stop it outright, as the Murkowski legislation would.
Jackson signaled there was room to compromise with industry in order to get a bill putting a price on carbon emissions. The U.S. energy and climate strategy should include incentives for offshore oil and natural gas drilling, as long as the environment is not hurt, she said.
"The energy strategy has to be varied and should include offshore drilling when it can be done in a way that is protective of the environment," Jackson told reporters at the National Press Club.
Senators John Kerry, a Democrat, Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, an independent, are working on a compromise climate bill that could include incentives for offshore petroleum production and nuclear power. The bill faces an uncertain future amid opposition from energy-rich states.
Jackson said she has met with Graham and Kerry on the bill and that it should also include incentives for alternatives, like offshore wind power, and energy efficiency.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner, editing by Julie Ingwersen