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UPDATE - Democrats seek to reverse Bush emissions decision

Date: 16-Mar-01
Country: USA
Author: Thomas Ferraro

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, said he would introduce a bill to set emission limits with the support of at least two moderate Senate Republicans - Jim Jeffords of Vermont and Susan Collins of Maine.

A similar bill will be introduced in the House by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican.

Lieberman, flanked by several Senate Democrats, said the measure would set "practical limits on the power plant emissions of carbon dioxide" as well as three other major air pollutants - sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

He said it would be difficult to get the measure through the Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives. "But it's a battle worth waging," he said.

But a senior Senate Republican aide said, "I don't see a Republican Congress overruling a new Republican president on a major issue like this."

Even if the bill is defeated, the legislative battle could prove a public relations disaster for the president that would portray him as a man who failed to keep his word.

Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, began crafting his new bill shortly after Bush said on Tuesday he would not seek to regulate power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, which many scientists believe is a key cause of global warming.

During the presidential campaign, Bush said he would try to cut carbon dioxide emissions at power plants. But aides and conservative Senate Republicans said on Tuesday the promise had been a mistake and conflicted with the overarching goal of boosting domestic energy production.

For their part, environmentalists said on Wednesday the president had disappointed people around the globe and would have to pay a heavy political price.

"This response by the Bush administration will not only let down Americans, it will outrage the global community," said Kathryn Fuller, president of the World Wildlife Fund.

At an open-air news conference across the street from the White House, several groups said Bush's reversal flew in the face of public concerns and they promised to mobilize their members to oppose it.

"This back-pedalling will haunt Bush for his entire term and may even be more hazardous to his re-election than breaking the 'No new taxes' pledge was to his father," former President George Bush, Greenpeace said in a statement. The elder Bush won the White House in 1988, vowing, "Read my lips: No new taxes." He was defeated in 1992 after he raised taxes.

Environmentalists and congressional Democrats argued the new president's reversal on carbon dioxide was at odds with the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 U.N. climate pact aimed at reducing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

The accord was signed by the United States but has not been ratified by the Senate and Bush opposes it.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Bush tied his decision to the risk an energy crisis posed for the economy.

"I am concerned that if we don't act in a common-sense way, that our people will not be able to eat and cool their homes. And I'm worried about a failure of an energy policy could affect our economy, and we're dealing with it in a common-sense way," Bush said as he visited New Jersey.

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