By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the Congress on Tuesday will try to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases by attaching the measure to an unrelated bill up for debate in the Senate.
Last week, a House of Representatives panel approved the legislation spearheaded by a pair of Republicans, Representative Fred Upton and Senator James Inhofe.
Inhofe is a leading skeptic of human-induced climate change and a critic of government attempts to control carbon dioxide pollution blamed for global warming. Having helped to successfully block climate control legislation over the last several years, he and other Republicans are now moving to squelch EPA regulations kicking in this year.
"Imposing a backdoor national energy tax through the EPA is a strange way to respond to rising gas prices," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
He formally offered Inhofe's legislation as an amendment to a small business bill now being debated in the Senate. It was unclear when a vote on the climate-related amendment would be called.
But one Democratic aide speculated that the amendment would not win the 60 votes that would likely be needed for approval in the 100 member Senate.
The measure would stop EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from large factories, oil refineries and electric utilities.
In January, EPA went ahead with regulations aimed at large polluters by requiring them to obtain permits for emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases. Still to come this year are proposed rules that would limit emissions from power plants and oil refineries.
EPA is moving ahead with the regulations after efforts to pass climate control legislation collapsed in the Senate last year. The House passed a comprehensive bill in 2009.
Inhofe, speaking on the Senate floor, said new controls on carbon pollution would cost families in his home state of Oklahoma about $3,000 annually in higher energy prices.
But Democrats and environmentalists have challenged such estimates as scare tactics and saying the high costs were based on outdated or faulty research.
Under legislation in Congress last year, consumers would have been compensated for some of the higher energy costs associated with moving the U.S. economy toward using more alternative fuels such as wind and solar power.