Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats Thursday seized on the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as a reason to pass climate-change and energy legislation, but internal policy differences will not be easy to overcome and may also leave many disheartened.
Members of the Democratic caucus met behind closed doors to discuss various legislative proposals, telling reporters afterward that no single vision has emerged as the way forward. The difficulty is that any policy change needs 60 votes to be approved in the Senate.
"One of the many lessons of the BP disaster is we can't afford to continue business as usual," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after the meeting. Reid, of Nevada, expressed his goal of voting on one bill that addresses both the BP spill and concerns about global warming before recessing in August, adding that "stalling for political purposes" is unacceptable.
Washington (CNN) - The U.S. Senate engaged in a heated debate Thursday on an issue at the heart of the fight over energy reform: whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have the authority to impose clear limits on the emission of greenhouse gases.
The chamber is expected to vote on a proposed "resolution of disapproval" drafted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would prevent the EPA from further regulation of air pollution from vehicles and industrial facilities. Murkowski has argued that new rules should only be created by Congress, not an executive agency.
"It would amount to an unprecedented power grab, ceding Congress' responsibilities to unelected bureaucrats and move a very, very important debate, a critical debate, from our open halls to behind an agency's closed doors," Murkowski argued on the Senate floor.
Murkowski's measure is vehemently opposed by environmentalists who say the EPA's decision to regulate greenhouse gases is based on scientific research.
"I believe it's ridiculous for politicians - elected senators - to make this scientific decision. It is not our expertise," replied Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "We've got to stop this attack on science and health."
Washington (CNN) - Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski vowed Tuesday to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to impose new limits on the emission of greenhouse gases.
The Senate on Thursday is expected vote on a "resolution of disapproval" by Murkowski that would prevent the EPA from further regulating air pollution from vehicles and industrial facilities.
Murkowski has the bipartisan support of 40 other senators, who may disagree with each other on the scientific impact of greenhouse gases, but who all agree that such regulations should be authorized by Congress, not an executive agency.
"The EPA intends to take control of climate policy, take it away from the Congress," Murkowski said at a press conference with eleven of her fellow Republican senators. "And I think those that are looking at this from the perspective of separate but equal branches of government look at this and say that this is absolutely unacceptable."
It is unclear whether there is enough support in the Senate to approve the measure, but its prospects in the House are slim. Regardless, the White House on Tuesday issued a veto threat if it makes it to President Obama's desk.
Washington (CNN) - Two leading senators on Wednesday introduced a sweeping energy and climate change bill intended to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while reshaping the energy sector for the 21st century.
Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who sits with the Democratic caucus, said the proposal offered a broad-based approach that would end the nation's dependence on foreign oil while keeping U.S. industry competitive.
The bill addresses a range of energy issues including expanded nuclear power production, incentives for the coal industry to seek cleaner methods, money to develop alternative energy sources and programs to help U.S. industry in the transition to a low-carbon system.
On climate change, the bill seeks escalating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades that match the levels set as goals by the Obama administration and contained in a separate House energy bill passed last year.
Washington (CNN) - Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman announced Friday that they will unveil long-planned climate change legislation Wednesday, but they'll move forward without support from a key Republican they've worked with for months.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, indicated that he's not on board with Kerry and Lieberman's bill. Graham said he believes that the legislation, which includes an expansion of offshore drilling, won't garner enough votes because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"When it comes to getting 60 votes for legislation that includes additional oil and gas drilling with revenue sharing, the climb has gotten steeper because of the oil spill," the GOP senator said in a news release.
"I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future," Graham added. "But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill."
Sources familiar with the senators' plans say Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Lieberman, I-Connecticut, intend to keep proposals to expand oil drilling, but they understand that safety regulations and standards will and should be scrutinized and added to their legislation in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama is ordering Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "to conduct a thorough review" of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent oil spill.
Speaking Friday at the White House, the president ordered Salazar to "report back to me in 30 days" on any "precautions in technologies" needed to prevent such accidents in the future.
"We're going to make sure that any leases going forward have those safeguards," Obama said. "We've also dispatched teams to the Gulf Coast to inspect all deep-water rigs and platforms to address safety concerns."
(CNN) - Despite a new bipartisan push on climate change, legislation on the issue is unlikely to make it to the Senate floor this year, two Senate Democratic sources tell CNN.
That would be a blow to three senior senators set to unveil a much anticipated bipartisan measure dealing with climate change Monday morning.
The main reason sources say the prospects for the legislation are dim is because Senate Democratic leaders have decided to try to put immigration reform first on the agenda, and after that there likely won't be an appetite for another politically divisive issue before November's election – especially with a Supreme Court nomination ahead and a desire to stay focused on the politically potent issue of jobs.
The Democratic sources said the feeling in the Senate Democratic leadership is that immigration has more of a political upside for Democrats for several reasons.
Washington (CNN) - Several environmentalists expressed disappointment and dismay over President Barack Obama's decision Wednesday to open key Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters to oil and gas drilling.
"I'm extremely disappointed," said David Rauschkolb, a Florida restaurant owner who organized anti-drilling rallies last month at several Gulf coast beaches.
"Florida's legacy is clean water, clean beaches, sunshine and tourism. Every oil rig is a threat to tourism and coastal well-being. ... All it takes
is one spill."
One leading critic of offshore drilling, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, vowed to fight Obama's plan.
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