Senate skeptic of global warming targets California |

Senate skeptic of global warming targets California

Erica Werner

WASHINGTON (AP) – A bill to crank up penalties for the nation’s most polluted air regions – both in California – was introduced Thursday in the Senate by Congress’ biggest skeptic of global warming.

A week after reacting angrily to California’s passage of landmark anti-global warming legislation, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., produced a bill to more than double fines on polluters who don’t meet cleanup deadlines for soot and smog. States that don’t require them to clean up could be denied federal highway funds.

Democrats and environmental activists accused Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, of retaliating against California.

Inhofe has said that manmade global warming could be “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He called the bill the California Legislature passed last week to reduce greenhouse gases “feel-good legislation to appease liberal special interest groups.”

A spokesman for Inhofe said his bill was already in the works before California lawmakers passed theirs.

“While this bill is not a response, it does expose the hypocrisy of their climate initiative,” said Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey. “This bill will clean up real air pollution; it will save thousands of lives and result in tens of billions of dollars saved, unlike the California global warming bill.”

California isn’t mentioned in Inhofe’s bill, but it applies to areas that don’t meet strict attainment standards for ozone and particulate matter. The only two areas of the country that meet that description are the Los Angeles basin and the San Joaquin Valley.

The bill drew an angry response from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who is in line to become the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee next year. “I can only conclude that this legislation is punishment for my state’s groundbreaking, bipartisan global warming bill,” she said.

Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Watch, called Inhofe’s move “a political stunt by the Senate’s biggest champion of big polluters.”

The California global warming plan, a deal between Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats, would make California the first state to impose a limit on and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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