Yesterday, Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced legislation that he said would “safeguard jobs, the coal industry, and the entire economy.” Sounds like a pretty solid policy prescription for an ailing economy. What would his legislation do?

…suspend, during the 2-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, any Environmental Protection Agency action under the Clean Air Act with respect to carbon dioxide or methane pursuant to certain proceedings, other than with respect to motor vehicle emissions, and for other purposes.

In English, it would prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and methane emissions from stationary sources for two years. It is well understood that the EPA regulations threaten the economic vitality of our country and have already inhibited our ability to create jobs during the recession.

What is interesting about Rockefeller’s approach is that EPA Administrator Jackson has assured him that no new sources will be forced to apply for permits until the “latter half of 2011.” In effect, Rockefeller’s two-year delay amounts to no more than nine-month delay.

Delaying damaging regulations is not inherently bad, unless it undermines the process of eliminated the damaging regulations in their totality. The nine-month delay proposed by Rockefeller is likely to cannibalize support for a resolution offered Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would officially disapprove of the EPA’s endangerment finding and declare that rules stemming from the finding “shall have no force or effect.”

Ironically, Senator Rockefeller’s position that “Congress, not the EPA, must be the ideal decision-maker” on the issue of global warming is undermined by his legislation. For Congress to have a serious, thoughtful debate on the science and economics of global warming legislation, the EPA’s regulatory threat cannot be looming.

From an economic perspective, Rockefeller’s temporary delay will do little to settle the nerves of businesses that are waiting to make capital investments. “Uncertainty,” according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), “is the enemy of economic growth and investment, and Washington, D.C., the usual source of uncertainty, is delivering plenty of it.” A nine-month delay does not reduce the uncertainty associated with the EPA regulations.

If Senators are serious about economic growth and job creation, they will disapprove of the EPA regulations. Anything less is a mere fig leaf.