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Recent letter to EPA is welcome, Thune says

A group of Democrats has sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and questioned the EPA's plans about regulating carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases.

Eight Democrats sent the letter last week to EPA Director Lisa Jackson, stressing the economic implications attached to regulating emissions. The letter adds weight to the ongoing efforts of Republicans, including South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who for months have been publicly concerned that the EPA could make sweeping changes in regulating gases without the consent of Congress.

"(The letter) is welcome news for those of us who have been questioning the EPA's unilateral decision-making -- doing it through the regulatory process rather than through congressional action," Thune said Wednesday.

Thune said Jackson has made it clear the EPA's intent is "to tax even the smallest emission sources, which are 250 tons a year" by 2016. Thune said that threshold would affect entities such as schools and hospitals.

"Regulation of greenhouse gases will impact literally every sector of our economy," he said.

It also would be devastating to the energy industry, Thune said, noting that even the uncertainty of EPA regulations is causing a ripple. Energy projects -- including the Big Stone II coal project in northeast South Dakota -- have been "put on ice," the senator said, because energy companies are reluctant to expand.

The EPA's decision-making process should not be granted unilaterally, but should be a process that involves Congress, Republicans have repeatedly said in recent months. Thune said that because the EPA's regulations could drastically affect the way many companies do business, the EPA's decisions could have a negative effect on the economy.

Certain Democrats, evidenced by their letter to the EPA's Jackson, agree.

In their letter, the eight Democrats told Jackson that her agency's decisions on regulation could hinder job creation in the United States. Portions of the letter, printed in a story that appeared on the Dow Jones newswire earlier this week, told Jackson that the eight Democratic senators "remain concerned about the possible impacts on American workers and businesses in a number of industrial sectors, along with farmers, miners and small business owners who could be affected."

Thune wants the Senate to go on record in opposition to the EPA's ability to act unilaterally and without congressional consent.

"It would be a great signal that there is opposition from the people's representatives to (the EPA) going down this path," he said.

"(EPA decision-making may) have huge ramifications to the U.S. economy and Congress ought to have a say to what extent carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are regulated."