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Eight Democratic Senators from coal and manufacturing states warned the Obama Administration Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases could hurt the economy.

The lawmakers, including prominent Senators Max Baucus, (D., Mont.), Carl Levin, (D., Mich.) and John Rockefeller, (D., W.V), warned EPA chief Lisa Jackson in a letter that “ill-timed or imprudent regulation of [greenhouse gases] may squander critical opportunities for our nation, impeding the investment necessary to create jobs.”

The letter could boost a Republican effort led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R., Alaska), to prevent the EPA from regulating stationary greenhouse gas emitters such as power plants, refineries, steel mills, chemical plants and cement kilns.

The Obama Administration says it prefers Congress to pass a bill that caps emissions across the economy and creates a market to trade the emission rights. But that proposal is stalled in the Senate. The EPA, meanwhile, is moving ahead to regulate gases such as carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, a plan many industries say will be costly and cost jobs.

Sen. Rockefeller said he’s drafting legislation that would force the EPA to temporarily suspend its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, “to allow sufficient time for Congressional consideration of the nation’s larger energy policy and economic needs.”

Sen. Murkowski, in a statement, asked the eight Democrats to sign on as co-sponsors of her proposal.

The Democrats’ letter coincides with a legal challenge of the EPA’s ruling that greenhouse gases represent a danger to public health and welfare, the trigger for regulations. Three state attorney generals and a number of energy and manufacturing organizations have asked the Washington, D.C. federal court of appeals to force the EPA to review its finding. It will hear opening arguments in late March.

The EPA says a majority of climate scientists agree that the Earth is warming at a higher speed due to a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, which is released through burning fossil fuels, like coal.

The Wall Street Journal, 23 February 2010