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Boxer Pledges Shift on Global Warming Policy with New Senate Role

by: Samantha Young    10 November 2006

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday promised major policy shifts on global warming, air quality and toxic-waste cleanup as she prepares to head the U.S. Senate's environmental committee.

"Time is running out, and we need to move forward on this," Boxer said of global warming during a conference call with reporters. "The states are beginning to take steps, and we need to take steps as well."

Boxer's elevation to chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee comes as the Democrats return to power in the Senate. It also marks a dramatic shift in ideology for the panel.

The California Democrat is one of the Senate's most liberal members and replaces one of the most conservative senators, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Inhofe had blocked bills seeking to cut the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming, calling the issue "the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people."

Environmentalists were overjoyed at the change.

"That's like a tsunami hit the committee," said Karen Steuer, who heads government affairs at the National Environmental Trust, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. "You can't find two members or people more ideologically different."

Boxer said she intends to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gases, strengthen environmental laws regarding public health and hold oversight hearings on federal plans to clean up Superfund sites across the country.

On global warming, Boxer said she would model federal legislation after a California law signed this summer by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That law imposes the first statewide cap on greenhouse gases and seeks to cut California's emissions by 25 percent, dropping them to 1990 levels by 2020.

A top environmental aide at the White House signaled Thursday that the administration would work with Boxer.

In an e-mail to the senator's chief counsel, George Banks, the associate director for international affairs at the Council for Environmental Quality requested a meeting to discuss global warming, Boxer said.

President Bush has opposed a federal mandate to limit greenhouse gas emissions from industry and automobiles, saying such steps should be voluntary. His administration also has ruled that greenhouse emissions are not a pollutant.

"We look forward to working with Congress in bipartisanship on all issues," said Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the Council on Environmental Quality.

She declined to discuss specifics related to the upcoming global warming discussion.

Democrats and environmentalists have criticized Bush for refusing to send the Senate the 1997 Kyoto accord for ratification. It requires 35 industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

California's law and various bills in Congress set more aggressive targets.