Snowe, Collins vote against EPA authority

LEWISTON — Maine's moderate Republican senators are at the center of another national political fight, this time with environmental groups and federal government regulators on one side and paper industry lobbyists and conservatives on the other.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted in favor of moving forward on a Senate resolution Thursday that would have revoked the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. The measure, which needed 51 votes to pass, failed 47-53. Six Democrats joined all 41 Senate Republicans in supporting the resolution.

Both Maine senators said they agreed with environmental organizations that carbon dioxide emissions must be regulated, but they think that is best done by Congress, not the EPA.

“I have serious concerns about unelected government officials at the EPA taking on this complicated issue instead of Congress,” Collins said during floor debate on Thursday. Collins had been recently targeted in a local television ad by a national group urging her to oppose the measure.

National and local environmental lobbyists say Congress has had the opportunity to regulate the emissions but has failed to act. Several comprehensive energy and climate control bills are circulating in the Senate, but none has been brought forward for a vote. One is a bipartisan measure crafted by Collins and Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington. The U.S. House passed its own version of the legislation last year.

Thursday's vote was largely symbolic because it would have required the heavily Democratic House to pass the measure and it would need President Barack Obama's signature. He had said he would veto it.

Dylan Voorhees, clean energy project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the vote sends the wrong message about carbon dioxide regulation.

“This vote will be read domestically and internationally as a signal about the intentions of the U.S. Senate on getting control of climate emissions and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” Voorhees said.

“It's bad policy, but I'm (also) concerned about the signal it sends," he said. "It relates to the larger needs for comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation. and all eyes are on this country and all eyes are on the Senate and many of those eyes are on our two senators, looking and trying to understand: Are we going to be able to do this?”

Snowe and Collins pointed out what they said were flaws in the EPA's preliminary rules for regulating carbon dioxide emissions as the basis of their support of the measure, which would have stripped that regulatory authority from the federal agency.

“Incredibly, the EPA proposes to ignore the carbon neutrality of biomass and place onerous permitting requirements on businesses such as Maine's biomass plants and paper mills, which use biomass to provide energy for their operations,” Collins said. “This reverses years of EPA considering biomass as carbon-neutral.”

Snowe said the EPA's new stance on biomass could negatively affect about 30 facilities in Maine that represent more than 8,500 jobs.

“It is Congress and not unelected bureaucrats that should be responsible for developing environmental policies that integrate our nation’s economic well-being as an urgent priority along with the reduction of carbon emissions, and I do not accept that these are mutually exclusive goals,” Snowe said in a statement.

She cited her past work on legislation requiring higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards and a measure that incorporated economic costs into the reduction of carbon emissions as evidence of her concern for the environment and the increased regulation of carbon dioxide, specifically.

“I will continue to work with my congressional colleagues to achieve our shared goals of fostering a healthy economy while moving toward a clean-energy future by replacing EPA regulations with a system that protects Maine employers and reduces greenhouse gases by the level that science dictates,” she said.

It is uncertain whether the Senate would take up comprehensive energy legislation before the November congressional elections.

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 's picture

Real issue is the New TAX coming

The tempest in a teapot over whether Congress or the EPA should control CO2 emissions is all political posturing. What we don't need is any CO2 control scheme that cripples US industrial competetiveness in a global economy or that creates a new (not so) hidden TAX. That's what all the schemes about CO2 come down to. I am sick and tired of ruining our industrial base, sending it all overseas to the polluting countries with next to slave wages. I already pay too much in TAXES and any politician that is being honest has got to tell the people, you are going to get a whopping NEW TAX because we need to placate the whiners about CO2. Tell Snowe, Collins, Pingree, and Michaud that we don't want to cripple our economy and we don't want a new TAX on CO2!

 's picture

This is the wisest joint

This is the wisest joint decision you have done since before the bailouts happened. Thank you both.


Betrayed again

How often do Snowe and Collins have to betray the people of Maine before we get the picture that they are in Congress to protect big business. Congress has no business trying to control science. We know that the Bush administration repeatedly re-wrote the conclusions of scientific investigations to match their policy choices which always favored big business. Happily, looks like the crazies in the Republican Party are going to fire these two next time around. Happy days are here again.

 's picture

complicated issue?

Some of those "unelected government officials" are scientists. Science should not be held hostage by elected officials. That's common sense, not complicated.

 's picture

Off base

I don't know how Snowe and Collins can justify this vote. Collins claims that she doesn't believe that the Environmental Protection Agency can deal with such complicated issues. What makes her believe that she is qualified to deal with such complicated issues. As far as I know, Collins has no environmental qualifications. Collins appears to not be able to make any good argument for her vote. This is happening more and more from the Collins camp, and I am unsure as to why. The only thing I can come up with is that she wants to make a bid for the Presidency or something. Either that or she has lost it.

 's picture

That's It I am done with these two

“I have serious concerns about unelected government officials at the EPA taking on this complicated issue instead of Congress"

Are you kidding me. I have serious concerns about ELECTED officials, with no experience in environmental matters, having any control over this. This should not be a political issue it should be based upon what's good for Maine's/USA's people and the environment. Not how much some lobbyist can sent your way.


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