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Herseth Sandlin, Thune push for stronger EPA blockade than Johnson

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin reiterated her support Thursday for a stiff-arm of the Environmental Protection Agency on its plan to regulate greenhouse gases, one day after Sen. Tim Johnson advocated a more measured approach.

Sen. John Thune, meanwhile, has been advocating against EPA regulation of greenhouse gases for months.

Current disputes over the issue date to December, when the EPA announced a finding that greenhouse gases -- such as carbon dioxide and methane -- endanger human health and welfare. The gases are also thought to contribute to global warming.

The finding allows the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, unless Congress prevents the EPA from doing so.

Legislation has been filed to stop the EPA, and Herseth Sandlin told reporters on a Thursday conference call that she became a co-sponsor last week of one such piece of legislation: House Joint Resolution 76. She said the resolution would "prevent EPA from enforcing regulations under the Clean Air Act" and "allow Congress time to set up a new legislative framework to address climate change in a more responsible manner."

"Because the Clean Air Act was not designed to regulate climate change," she said, "I have concerns that any such regulation could have unintended and overly burdensome consequences in South Dakota, particularly when it comes to agricultural energy and power producers."

Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat, noted that the legislation has bipartisan support. In the Senate, South Dakota Republican John Thune has been a co-sponsor of similar bipartisan legislation -- Senate Joint Resolution 26 -- since January. Both Herseth Sandlin and Thune fear that if greenhouse-gas emitters such as energy companies are regulated, the costs of the regulation will filter down to energy-intensive industries and energy consumers.

Thune issued a statement that included the following comment when he became a co-sponsor of the Senate legislation in January.

"The EPA is using the rulemaking process to go around Congress and the American people in instituting what amounts to a national energy tax."

Thune also fears that greenhouse-gas regulation could lead to a so-called "cow tax," because cattle emit a significant amount of the world's methane. He introduced legislation last year that seeks to prohibit the imposition of such a tax.

Johnson, a Democrat, came under fire early this week from the South Dakota Farm Bureau for not joining Herseth Sandlin and Thune in their efforts to block the EPA. The Farm Bureau issued a news release Sunday saying that its leaders "urge Senator Johnson to take a stand in support of South Dakotans by joining in co-sponsoring" the Senate legislation supported by Thune.

On Johnson's Wednesday media conference call, The Daily Republic asked him to respond to the Farm Bureau's news release. Johnson said the legislation supported by Thune and Herseth Sandlin "mixes politics in with science."

"I would rather support the resolution proposed by Sen. Rockefeller that waits on this finding for two years," Johnson said. "That's enough time to let Congress get its act together."

The legislation from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was introduced last week as Senate Bill 3072 and so far has no co-sponsors. Its title says it would "suspend, during the 2-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, any Environmental Protection Agency action under the Clean Air Act with respect to carbon dioxide or methane pursuant to certain proceedings, other than with respect to motor vehicle emissions."

Thune issued a statement last week when Rockefeller's legislation was introduced. Thune said he appreciates Rockefeller's effort, "however, EPA's backdoor energy tax is a bad idea today and will still be a bad idea two years from now."

Herseth Sandlin said there is a "different dynamic" in the Senate that may be leading Rockefeller, Johnson and other senators to address the situation in a different way than her, but she still supports a more "strongly worded" EPA blockade.

"I think we have to send a very clear and direct message to the EPA, and I'm afraid that just putting on sort of short-term or arbitrary time limits doesn't send the kind of message and provide the kind of pressure that we in the House in a bipartisan way want to apply."