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Scott Hennen, Published June 06 2010

Senate can stop the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency is intent on shoehorning vast, costly global warming regulations into the 1970 Clean Air Act. Congress has been content to look the other way and allow it to happen, but on Thursday every senator will be on the record. That’s when the Senate will vote on a resolution (S.J. Res. 26), introduced by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, that would overturn the EPA’s global warming regulations. It’s privileged and not subject to filibuster. There is no place for weak-kneed senators to hide. Soon we’ll know where every member of the Senate stands, including North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan.

The EPA is out to regulate cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, planes, trains, ships, boats, tractors, mining equipment, RVs, lawn mowers, forklifts and just about everything else that has a motor in it. And because there is no control technology for greenhouse gases, the EPA would require complete redesigns and operational changes. They would also regulate stationary sources, including commercial kitchens that use natural gas as a cooking fuel and, eventually, even large single-family homes.

The Democrats have a huge majority in the Senate, but many Democrats will not walk the party line on this one. To start, three Democrats are co-sponsors of Murkowski’s resolution: Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana).

And at least one more key Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, has also expressed his concerns about what the EPA is doing. He said: “We cannot wait any longer to send the message that relying on EPA is the wrong way to go. The fate of our entire economy, our manufacturing industries and our workers should not be in the hands of EPA.”

The stakes here in North Dakota are huge. The North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Air Quality Director Terry O’Clair announced that “EPA has grossly underestimated the impact of the rule,” and characterized it as “another unfunded mandate by EPA.” Public Service Commission President Kevin Cramer warned that the “rush to regulate and control may result in unintended negative collateral damage to all sizes of business and economic activity.” Cramer continued that the rule “seems almost certain to slow, if not stop altogether, new business development or expansion. I cannot imagine it is the intent of any agency or department of the government to slow down, impede or halt business growth during these trying economic times.”

The vote could come as soon as Thursday. It will be a clean, up-or-down vote on the Senate floor – a “yes” to stop the EPA power grab, or a “no” to look the other way and let it happen.

Regardless of the outcome, we’ll learn where Conrad and Dorgan stand. Will they vote to say a rogue agency can short-circuit the legitimate legislative process, disregard public opinion and impose its own constraints on the North Dakota economy? Or will they take responsibility as the legitimately elected legislative branch of government and rein in the EPA by voting “yes” on S.J. Res. 26? We’ll find out soon.

Hennen is chairman of the Common Sense Club, a daily radio talk show heard on Talkradio AM 1100 and several radio stations in North Dakota.