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Fearing Economic Impact, U.S. Democrats Press Obama To ‘Reevaluate’ Climate Policy

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is urging the White House to re-evaluate greenhouse gas permitting regulations to avoid damaging manufacturers and other industries that are vital to his state and the nationwide economy.

Brown — who faces reelection in 2012 in the battleground Midwest state — wrote to President Obama Monday calling for a review of the “economic repercussions and potential unintended consequences” of regulations the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun to phase in this year.

Brown has long expressed concern that emissions mandates could harm so-called trade-sensitive industries. But his new letter could be a political blow to advocates of EPA’s emissions rules, who are battling various efforts by Republicans and some centrist Democrats to delay the rules or even scuttle the agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases outright.

A House federal spending bill approved earlier this month would block funding for EPA climate rules, while Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has attracted six Democratic co-sponsors — Brown isn’t currently among them — for his bill to delay EPA regulation of stationary sources such as power plants for two years. A spokeswoman said in January that Brown was “reviewing multiple variations of the Rockefeller bill, such as a one-year delay.”

Brown last year voted against Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) failed resolution to nullify EPA’s regulatory power.

Brown’s letter acknowledges that EPA is moving forward with regulations under a 2007 Supreme Court decision, but calls for reviewing the agency’s approach and consideration of changes that “promote economic growth” while curbing emissions.

“In Ohio and across the country … industries, workers and farmers are extremely concerned that burdensome permitting requirements have been triggered for greenhouse gas emissions. They need assurances that greenhouse gas reductions will be achieved in ways that protect and enhance our nations competitiveness and guard against the threat of carbon leakage — whereby both pollution and jobs in trade sensitive industries are shifted overseas,” the letter to Obama says.

Brown urges Obama to “work collaboratively” with manufacturers, states and environmentalists.

Brown has generally received quite high marks from environmental advocates.

Update: Brown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said Monday that the senator is not going to introduce legislation that would delay EPA’s rules by one year. Asked if Brown might sign onto Rockefeller’s plan to delay regulation for two years, she replied “not at this time.”

The Hill, 28 February 2011