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Battle of the Lisas Heats Up

As the Senate drags its feet on climate change legislation that may increase the cost of coal-fired electricity for data centers, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made it clear that her agency isn't going to wait much longer before using its power under the Clean Air Act (a power affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2007) to regulate carbon emissions. This has alarmed many in the Senate, especially the GOP. Today, GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska will introduce legislation that if approved, would veto the EPA's finding last year that carbon endangers human life, thus stripping the EPA's authority to regulate carbon unless Congress gives it authority. According to Jackson, the bill is a return to a failed approach that deepens our addiction to foreign oil at a time when the Gulf oil spill is still unfolding. Murkowski's office fired back, accusing Jackson of single-handedly misleading the American public to advance her own political agenda.

Other than the political bickering between Jackson and Murkowski, there is a larger litmus test at play today. Jackson's bill is introduced in the form of a disapproval resolution, which only requires 51 votes to pass. The number of Democratic senators who join the resolution may indicate how much opposition or support there is for a wider climate bill. Blanche Lincoln, who narrowly won her primary this week, has indicated she would vote with it, as well as Virginia's Rockefeller. If other Democrats join the resolution, it could add a dramatic twist to the passage prospects for the climate change bill.

Murkowski's bill has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Automobile Dealers Association, and other business groups. The Edison Electric Institute, representing electric utility companies, has not taken a position while the auto industry itself opposes the bill because of a compromise between the industry and EPA on regulating vehicle carbon emissions.

Even if the bill passes (and it would be big news if it did), the White House promises a veto, so there's no real danger to the EPA's movement to regulate carbon for now. Those regulations are expected by the end of the year.

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