The Senate Gets A Deadline on Carbon

With the Senate clearly dragging its feet on climate legislation, the EPA’s December finding that greenhouse gas emissions threaten Americans’ health and welfare could be viewed either as a sign that the administration had given up on Congress, or that it was pressuring lawmakers to hurry up and act or risk losing their say.

A recent letter sent by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to coal-state Democrat Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) leaves little doubt that the Obama administration is sending an ultimatum to the Senate, which has yet to debate, let alone vote on, a climate bill.

In her letter, which was a response to “serious economic and energy security concerns” about EPA regulations that Rockefeller and seven other Dems from coal states expressed in a letter of their own, Jackson laid out a timetable for when and how those very regulations would be rolled out. In effect, she gave the Senate a deadline for climate action.

That deadline is 2011. I would have preferred it to be last week, myself, but then I’m not in charge of running this big country, and there are no doubt many practical considerations that go into rolling out such a monumental new set of regulations that I am not taking into account, so I’ll give the EPA the benefit of the doubt on this one.

To be more specific, though, the EPA plans to issue rules for emissions from stationary sources, like power plants, by this April. The EPA will begin issuing permits to polluters early next year. But this only applies to those polluters who are already required to obtain permits for other types of pollutants. Other major emitters of greenhouse gas pollution won’t have to start acquiring permits until the second half of 2011.

Of course there will be lots of pushback on even this generous timeline. Democratic Senators who are fighting to keep their jobs this election cycle will no doubt be livid that the climate beast has once again reared its head and forced them to take a stand for the planet — and against some very big corporations — or not. Fiscal scolds will talk about the higher energy prices these regulations will cause … or not. Global warming skeptics will launch into hysterical, ill-informed tirades against the government, but then they probably would have done that anyway.

But the bottom line is: It’s about damn time the Obama administration started playing hardball with Senators who are hoping the climate issue goes away or even actively trying to prevent climate action. Climate change doesn’t care about your re-election prospects or how much money a coal company donated to your campaign, it will continue to punish us more and more until we take action.

Image credit: chesbayprogram

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