House Republicans can claim "bipartisanship" in their bid to handcuff the EPA's climate change rules.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told POLITICO on Wednesday that he will be co-sponsoring the legislation from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) that puts a freeze on EPA's regulatory agenda for major industrial polluters like power plants and petroleum refiners.
"The EPA needs to be reined in," said Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and a frequent critic of the agency.
Upton and Whitfield, the chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, have been offering small changes to their bill in their courtship of moderate and conservative Democrats like Peterson. Support from House Democrats, they hope, will put pressure on Senate Democrats and the Obama White House to accept their legislation.
"We want to get as many as we can, and we have reason to believe we'll have a number of Democrats," Whitfield told reporters.
House GOP aides were still trying to put a full list together of House Democratic co-sponsors as of late Wednesday and couldn't confirm additional names. But the field of potential Democrats numbers around 13, considering the list of lawmakers who crossed the aisle during last month's floor vote on anti-EPA language attached to the fiscal 2011 spending bill.
Those members include Georgia's John Barrow, Oklahoma's Dan Boren, Illinois's Jerry Costello, Indiana's Joe Donnelly, Wisconsin's Ron Kind, West Virginia's Nick Rahall, Arkansas's Mike Ross, California's Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, and Pennsylvania's Jason Altmire, Mark Critz and Tim Holden.
Peterson insisted that his support for the Upton-Whitfield bill didn't come with any caveats, though he said Republicans have told him the legislation won't mess with existing EPA programs like the renewable fuel standard.
"The discussion we had with them, whatever they're doing on the greenhouse gases, I got an assurance it would not be detrimental to ethanol," Peterson said.
Whitfield said one of the holdups with the bill's release involved the ethanol language.
"We're still discussing some changes with the Democrats," he said. "As you know, one of the areas, the renewable issue, was one they were concerned about. We're still discussing it with them, and that's why we don't have it exactly in final form just yet."
Other possible changes to an earlier draft from Upton ensures the legislation won't halt EPA rules to control greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions, a policy that won approval in 2009 from the auto industry and California officials. House Republicans also don't want to undermine EPA's greenhouse gas reporting program, which the agency earlier this week agreed to delay for several months until the summer.
Across the Capitol, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is planning to release a companion version of the EPA legislation Thursday with support from a large bloc of the Republican Conference and perhaps even a small number of Democrats. Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski said the Inhofe bill circulated Wednesday during a GOP luncheon and has won over her signature.
"The temperature in Alaska is so high right now directed against the EPA because everything it seems like we're trying to take on, we get shut down by the EPA," Murkowski said. "It's just a big, big issue."
Among Democrats, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he would "absolutely" consider co-sponsoring the proposal but noted that he hadn't seen a final version yet. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu said she wouldn't be among the original co-sponsors but would "strongly consider" voting for it if the measure reached the floor.
Inhofe said he would also make pitches to Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
Robin Bravender and Darren Goode contributed to this report.