Wednesday April 06, 2011 | 07:43 PM

Maine’s U.S. senators split today on a failed proposal to permanently ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe voted in favor of the measure authored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but GOP Sen. Susan Collins voted against it. The proposal failed when the Senate deadlocked 50 to 50, far short of the 60 votes required for passage.
 
Collins and Snowe split again on another proposal, this one by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, that would have forced the EPA to delay for two years any regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say cause global warming. This measure failed by a wide margin, garnering only 12 votes, but one of the yes votes was Collins.
 
The Obama administration says it has turned to EPA regulation of greenhouse gases because Congress has been unable to pass a climate change bill.
 
Snowe said that while she is a strong believer that the scientific evidence shows “we must address climate change,” giving the EPA the authority to impose new greenhouse gas emissions rules right now, with the economy still fragile, “will only exacerbate economic uncertainty for manufacturing facilities, including 71 facilities in Maine, that are struggling with international competition and fails to provide the critical long-term signals necessary for sparking energy innovation in the private sector.”
 
Snowe charged that EPA regulations would “disproportionately harm the manufacturing sector which has actually reduced their total emissions over 1990 levels by 17 percent– we should continue to assist these employers make these investments through tax incentives that assist the transition to clean energy.”
 
Snowe said in a statement following the votes that she has been “long been concerned that the Clean Air Act is insufficiently designed to address green house gas reductions in a cost-effective manner.” Snowe said that concern led her to co-author the 2007Fuel Efficiency Standards for Vehicles – “a law which resulted in the most significant carbon reductions the federal government has ever enacted and will continue to reduce our consumption of foreign oil.”
 
Snowe added that the EPA should focus its greenhouse gas reduction efforts not “on the sectors making the most progress and improvements in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – sectors like transportation and manufacturing – the EPA should focus its efforts on the electric utilities sector, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”
 
But Collins said the McConnell measure went too far. Collins said that the EPA should not regulate greenhouse gas emissions without legislative direction of the type she proposed last year with Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington.
 
That proposal, Collins said, “would have reduced carbon pollution while protecting families from energy price increases. For this reason, I supported the Rockefeller amendment to prevent EPA from acting to regulate in this area for the next two years in order to allow time for Congress to act in a responsible way,” Collins said.
 
But what McConnell proposed, Collins added, “Goes far beyond that temporary prohibition. It would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources forever - no matter what the health consequences are, no matter what current or future scientific research reveals, no matter what the environmental impact is.”
 
Collins said she also was concerned that the McConnell amendment would halt progress on stricter emissions standards for motor vehicles.
“Improving vehicle efficiency is critical to lessen our nation's dependence on foreign oil and to reduce emissions that are a major contributor to air pollution,” Collins said in a statement after the votes.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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