Senator Boxer Plays the EPA Card

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer gave opponents of climate change legislation, including some in her own party, a "reality check on global warming" this morning.

Look at the Federal Register – the EPA and other federal agencies are already moving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Boxer told a news conference. California will soon have a waiver so it and 17 other states can increase their auto emissions standards. A declaration that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare is coming.

"The days of inaction on climate change have ended," Boxer said. "Action has begun."

"My message to my colleagues is, we could sit here and let EPA do it, with the president's support, we could allow the states and cities and the world to do it, or we can move forward. I believe the thing to do is to move forward."

The target of her message was clear, and it wasn't the press.

Last week, seven conservative Democrats – Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) – joined Republicans in fighting to preserve the threat of a Senate filibuster against cap-and-trade legislation. Presidential climate adviser Carol Browner had reportedly been floating the idea of using the budget reconciliation process to get cap-and-trade legislation through the Senate with 51 votes rather the usual 60. Republicans have used that tactic in the past to get tax cuts through and once tried to use it to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Yesterday, four of the six – Lincoln, Bayh, Landrieu and Nelson – launched a Moderate Dems Working Group with 12 other senators to try to influence legislation.

Boxer argues that cap-and-trade revenues belong in the budget document.

"A lot of my colleagues seem to feel that if we don't act on [climate] legislation then nothing is going to happen," Boxer said. "If congress does nothing, we'll be watching EPA do our job. We'll be watching the states doing our job, because they have the political will to do it."

"The question is, will Congress continue to play a small part in the solution, as it is now, or a central role? Of course, I hope for a central role."

The Senate has yet to write its own cap-and-trade bill. There are differences over how greenhouse gas allowances would be doled out – as polluter giveaways, partial giveaways or a 100 percent auction – among other things. Boxer said she had been meeting with officials from the agencies, the White House, and Rep. Henry Waxman, whose House Energy and Commerce Committee expects to take the lead by passing a climate bill before summer.

After the failure last summer of the rushed Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, Boxer knows who she needs to talk to in the Senate and which colleagues can be persuaded. The California senator said she has no intention of rushing this bill.

Even if Congress doesn't act, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson "should, and I believe will," issue the finding that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, endanger human health and welfare, Boxer said. "Once there is an endangerment finding, action has to follow."

"What I am saying today is that a cap-and-trade system is the very best plan for avoiding the ravages of climate change, the very best plan for creating new green jobs and moving our nation toward energy independence. Now is not the time to throwing up roadblocks. Now is the time to get on board."

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