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Democrats oppose Alaska senator's moves on global-warming legislation [Updated]

January 12, 2010 | 12:23 pm


It wasn't much of a surprise to fellow solons that Alaska's Lisa Murkowski announced she was weighing legislative actions to bridle the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.

Murkowski has followed in the footsteps of her father, Frank Murkowski, who wielded a heavy hand on energy and environmental legislation and zealously guarded Alaska's oil interests. The younger Murkowski was appointed to her father's seat in 2002, after he won the gubernatorial race in Alaska, sparking charges of nepotism

She is the senior Republican on the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, chaired by her father from 1995 to 2001. The elder Murkowski, who was unseated as Alaska's governor by Sarah Palin in 2006, had pushed unsuccessfully for the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration.

Democrats on the committee, led by Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, signed a letter Monday urging the Democratic majority to oppose any of Murkowski's efforts to negate the EPA's so-called endangerment finding that carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases posed a public health risk worthy of regulation. Boxer and fellow Democrats wrote:

"Debating policy choices regarding the appropriate response to unchecked climate change is fair, and the Senate will continue to evaluate the best tools for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, but repealing an endangerment finding based upon years of work by America's scientists and public health experts is not appropriate."

Murkowski has hinted that she might introduce an amendment to an unrelated bill that would raise the federal debt limit, or launch a disapproval resolution that would negate EPA's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under powers granted to the agency under the Clean Air Act.

Greenwire reports that Murkowski defended her actions: "I do not believe and I don't believe that most of my colleagues in the Senate believe that the EPA is the entity that is best-suited to develop climate change policy for this country," she said. The senator said she had still not decided on her strategy.

[Updated 2:38: Word on the hill is that Murkowski also will try to push a Boxer-Kerry climate bill onto the Senate floor, where it is likely to fail. The move is part of a strategy to discredit climate legislation.]

With climate-change legislation languishing in the Senate, lobbyists from the energy industry and other businesses are trying to make their voices heard at the EPA, which may issue its first regulations by March.

-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: Melting iceberg in Greenland. Credit: John McConnico / Associated Press