Mississippi governor seeks to help block EPA move

Haley Barbour is drafting a letter to governors asking them to support effort to block agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is trying to ramp up support among fellow governors for efforts in Congress to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The former Republican National Committee chairman, a prospective 2012 presidential candidate, is floating a draft letter to governors at their winter meeting this weekend asking Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to reject EPA's endangerment finding. That finding cites climate change as a risk to public health and welfare, which the agency is using as justification for pursuing regulations.

"In addition to placing heavy administrative burdens on state environmental quality agencies, regulating greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act will be costly to consumers and hurt the U.S. economy, resulting in job losses," according to Barbour's draft.

"Considering the regulatory impacts on electricity and gasoline prices, on the cost of manufactured products, and on the U.S. economy in general, we urge Congress to reject EPA's proposed endangerment finding -- the precursor to harmful regulations," it adds.

This echoes an effort by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who is expected to call for a vote on a resolution in March to use the Congressional Review Act to block EPA, spokesman Robert Dillon said.

She needs 51 votes and has 40 co-sponsors for her disapproval resolution, including three Democrats led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Murkowski's effort, and those by Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, and others in the House, are not expected to be successful, given Democratic control of Congress and opposition from the president, who could veto a resolution even if it gets through both chambers.

But it continues to raise the argument that efforts by the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders to limit U.S. greenhouse gases are serious threats to the economy heading into this fall's elections.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner confirmed that Barbour, who co-founded a lobbying firm representing electric utilities fighting EPA climate change regulations, is shopping the draft for discussion at this weekend's gathering.

David Quam, director of federal relations for the National Governors Association, said this could happen in the full body or in the 12-member Natural Resources Committee Barbour sits on. "It's been forwarded to us and Gov. Barbour has expressed an interest in at least starting a discussion," Quam said.

Quam said in order for a letter to be sent on NGA letterhead it must represent a consensus among the governors, a process that could extend beyond this weekend's gathering.

"This just came up," he said. "I see this as a start of a discussion." He added, "I'd be out of bounds if I could say what will happen."

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said: "Any Democratic governor would look foolish in supporting what's obviously just a reprise of Bush-Cheney."

At the same time, O'Donnell is not taking the effort lightly, given Barbour's prominence. "I take it seriously because he's a serious player," O'Donnell said. "He certainly has a track record of being effective."