The road ahead for the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate carbon emissions seems to be getting rougher with each passing day.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) is gaining support for his plan to delay the EPA’s emission regulating capabilities for two years, and he is close to getting filibuster-proof support. Rockefeller’s bill would suspend the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions under the authority granted to the Senate in the 1996 Congressional Review Act. Unlike a similar proposal by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that failed, Rockefeller’s proposal is for a two-year suspension instead of a full-out death penalty for the agency’s authority.

Grist’s David Roberts describes the measure as, “The only serious legislative threat to EPA power.” The seriousness of the threat is escalating after Politico reported that at least 56 senators are showing support for the bill. (Not only did Politico do all the research, but the editors also arranged the data in this sweet infographic, which categorizes each senator’s stance on the issue.

Not surprisingly, every member of the Republican party fell into the “Supports Full Pre-emption” category, which basically means support of the Murkowski resolution. Joining the 47 Republicans in that position were three Democrats, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). More concerning to those who support the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions is that six Democrats are now listed as “Leaning Towards the Two-year Delay” and another eight are in the “Fence-sitters” category.

All of this should concern anyone who supports carbon regulation. First of all, any Democratic senator living in a state that is even remotely conservative is staying away from supporting the EPA, as if doing so will expose them to a deadly disease.

Michigan and Montana, both of which have two Democrats in the Senate, have seen their senators begin leaning towards opposing the EPA’s authority. The same can be said in West Virginia and in North and South Dakota. The Democrats in those states are also veering away from supporting the EPA.

In all, the EPA could become a wedge issue in future elections for Democrats in tough political environments. Clearly they are hedging their potential vulnerabilities on the issue by either opposing the agency outright or to opposing it for two years — and the next election.  

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