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EPA Can Still Regulate CO2 (For Now)

So it looks like Lisa Murkowski's resolution to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases got shot down. The final vote was 47 to 53, with every Republican and six Dems voting in favor, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, and Jay Rockefeller. The line from most of these folks is that they want Congress, rather than the EPA, to take the lead on global warming. Trouble is, many of them won't vote for a climate bill, either. There's a bonus irony in Bayh taking this stance, given that he's retiring from the Senate because he thinks the chamber is too dysfunctional to tackle the biggest issues facing the country.

In any case, this doesn't mean the EPA is now free and clear to crack down on CO2. According to Greenwire, Harry Reid had to cut a few deals to prevent even more conservative Dems from voting for the resolution. One thing he promised was a vote (sometime down the road) on a bill by Jay Rockefeller that would delay all EPA regulations on industrial polluters for at least two years. That bill wouldn't be nearly as drastic as Murkowski's resolution: It wouldn't directly attack the EPA's scientific finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health, and it wouldn't block the new fuel-economy rules for vehicles. But it does have a much better chance of passing. So this debate will be going on for quite some time.

More: Dave Roberts has an appropriately scornful take on the significance of today's vote: "But what does it mean for the climate and energy bill that's coming in July? Nothing, really. That vote will be determined by the shape of the bill, the state of the economy, and the level of public anger on the oil spill. This was just a waste of everyone's time and energy. A sideshow. A stupid, stupid sideshow." Pretty much.