* Senate kills Murkowski move in 53 to 47 vote
* EPA could still face legal challenges from industry
(Adds quote from Reid, UN climate talks)
By Timothy Gardner and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, June 10 The U.S. Senate on Thursday
killed legislation that would have stripped the Environmental
Protection Agency's power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions
from large factories, electric power companies and
The defeat of the Republican-inspired measure knocked down
the most serious legislative challenge the EPA faced on
regulating planet-warming gases, although it may have to
contend with lawsuits from companies and industry groups.
In a procedural move, the Senate voted 53-47 to block the
bill offered by Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.
"We managed to avoid taking a big step backwards, and now
it's time to come together and focus on creating clean energy
jobs and moving into an energy independent future," EPA
spokeswoman Adora Andy said.
The defeat of the bill could give new life to the effort in
Congress to pass a broad energy and climate legislation, a top
goal of President Barack Obama's even before the BP Plc (BP.L)
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
That is because many heavy industry companies, like power
utilities and steel and cement makers, prefer that Congress
craft a plan to cut emissions over facing likely tougher rules
issued by the EPA.
"Today's vote is yet another reminder of the urgent need to
pass legislation that would help America transition to a 21st
century clean energy economy that would create jobs, strengthen
our national security, and protect our environment for our
children," Obama said in a statement.
Had Murkowski's move succeeded, it would have been another
setback in the global climate change fight before the next U.N.
talks in Mexico later this year.
Obama has always said he prefers that Congress deals with
climate, but that the EPA would act if a bill failed.
In fact, the EPA last month finalized rules that would
require large power utilities, manufacturers and oil refineries
to get permits to emit greenhouse gases starting next year. In
addition, it has issued rules on requiring autos to use less
gasoline and diesel fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The comprehensive climate bill unveiled last month by
Senators John Kerry, a Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, an
independent, would pre-empt greenhouse gas regulation by the
EPA, a move aimed at gaining support from lawmakers from energy
But passing a climate bill in the Senate, which would
require 60 votes rather than the simple majority that
Murkowski's resolution required, faces an uphill battle amid
opposition from many lawmakers from oil and coal states.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants
a climate bill to move to the Senate floor in coming weeks.
Reid met on Thursday with Democratic Senate leaders on
clean energy. "There are a variety of opinions within our
caucus about how to develop a bipartisan bill that can gain the
necessary support, but there is also resolve to move forward
with this effort," he said in a release.
Environmentalists applauded the Senate vote. "Senators
today defeated a plan that would have shielded oil companies
and other corporations from government oversight, letting those
companies increase carbon pollution and America's dependency on
oil," said Joseph Mendelson, director of global warming policy
at the National Wildlife Federation.
The EPA is expected to release next week an economic
analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill. If, as expected,
it shows that carbon controls would only raise consumer costs
slightly, it could boost Senate support for the bill.
(Additional reporting by Donna Smith, Tom Ferraro and Steve
Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)