WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation imposing a two-year pause on Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon dioxide pollution from smokestacks appeared to be dead for this year as Senator John Rockefeller accused Republicans on Friday of withholding their needed support.
“Republican proponents of my bill to suspend EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions have pulled their support for this year — so that they can gain some political advantage trying to take over this issue in 2011,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Republicans pushed a bill to permanently ban EPA regulation of carbon pollution, but it failed in the Senate. On January 5, Republicans will have more seats in the Senate and take control of the House of Representatives from Democrats. They could again try to pass a permanent prohibition.
On Thursday, Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said he was attempting to get a vote on his bill this year as Congress considers several measures in the waning days of the legislative session.
In early January, the EPA is scheduled to go ahead with new regulations requiring large factories to start cutting their carbon pollution.
Rockefeller says Congress, not the EPA, should write U.S. policy on carbon controls. But he wants lawmakers to go slow so that the U.S. coal industry, a major force in his state, has more time to develop clean coal technologies.
Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers from heavy coal-using and coal-producing states have worked to kill any carbon pollution legislation and oppose the upcoming EPA regulations. Legislation to reduce carbon pollution died in the Senate earlier this year.
Opponents argue that controls on carbon pollution from electric utilities, refineries and factories would lead to energy price spikes and prompt some businesses to move abroad.
Environmentalists counter that consumer protections could be woven into any climate change legislation and that further delays in controlling carbon pollution will speed up catastrophic heat waves, floods and droughts.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney