Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act coming up for a vote

by Robert Gardner

June 8, 2010

Friday is a day that just might live in climate infamy. On Thursday, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski will introduce her "resolution of disapproval" (S.J.Res. 26), aka the “Dirty Air Act.” Take action now and urge your Senator to vote against the Dirty Air Act. The goal of this Amendment is to take away the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate dangerous greenhouse gases.

Seems strange. Where have I heard this issue before?

PolluterWatch Murkowski bannerWell, the Supreme Court for one. In 2007, the Supreme Court offered its decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA (549 U.S. 497), which interpreted Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act’s seemingly non-discretional language. The Court found that Section 202 required the EPA Administrator to regulate carbon dioxide and other harmful gases that “in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

The EPA responded to the Court’s remand with an endangerment finding, which enabled them to draft new standards to curb greenhouse gases while simultaneously raising mileage standards.

Higher mileage standards mean less pain at the pump for the consumer, less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and a greater role for industry to innovate. Seems too good to be true.

However, Murkowski’s resolution would overturn the EPA’s endangerment finding, thereby gutting the Clean Air Act. Also, this would have the effect of rolling back the agreement struck by the Obama administration, NHTSA and EPA to increase light duty vehicles efficiency standards, reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.

Despite this, Murkowski and her co-sponsors are pushing an industry-lobbyist written amendment to reverse this decision legislatively by stripping the EPA’s ability to regulate harmful greenhouse gases.

Something just doesn’t seem right about Murkowski’s actions. Sure, Greenpeace has shown exactly how wedded to polluting industries Murkowski is during our Polluter Harmony campaign. Yeah, Murkowski has been continually criticized for the cozy links between her and energy lobbyists at Bracewell & Guliani (this legislation came from one of those links). And so what if she takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from the polluting energy industry.

Despite these egregious ethical failings, I think that something else is going on here.

This vote is about whether the Senate supports the President.

If the Senate votes to stop EPA action on climate change, they will be removing Presidential powers – a move obviously designed to show disapproval of the Executive’s judgment and prerogative to develop rules and enforce the law. This is a vote of distrust.

Second, because the vote is about removing Presidential authority, it is also going to be an indication about whether the Democrats can organize themselves or not. So, it might be useful to remind leadership that if Murkowski wins, Obama looks weak.

Especially at this late stage, the leaders with the most clout and interest in rallying the necessary votes to defeat Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act should be President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Despite the uncapped, massive volume of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, if Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act goes forward, the US will use 450 million more barrels of oil by blocking new clean car standards. (See: Lisa Jackson’s Testimony before Energy and Commerce Committee, April 28, 2010). Also, by having less efficient vehicles, the American people are losing billions at the gas pump. We need Obama and Reid to lead us toward an end to our addiction to fossil fuels.

Now is not the time to make us more dependent upon polluting fossil fuels, while simultaneously eliminating the ability of the EPA to regulate the very emissions that they make.

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