The first test of the Senate's ability to pass a climate bill will be on their very first day back from recess, January 20. Instead of a pop quiz or essay on "What I Did For Clean Energy Jobs and American Power over Winter Break," they may be voting on a power-company-drafted rollback of the Clean Air Act. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) wants to endanger not only the iconic polar bears of her home state, but all of us who breathe air.
It's critically important to contact our Senators before January 20 to let them know how much we value the Clean Air Act. The Senate is not yet in session, all eyes are on healthcare reform and other news, and the Republicans are mounting an under-the-radar stealth attack. Their effort may fail, but the vote will be spun as a harbinger of the fate of the climate bill and of the Senate's ability to strongarm the EPA.
- The Senate's January 20 Vote:
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has led the Republicans' fight against the Environmental Protection Agency. Last fall she sought to delay EPA regulations with a significant amendment to a boring bill (HR 2996, Interior Department appropriations) which would have barred the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources (e.g., power plants, not cars) for one year. The amendment never made it to the floor, but apparently her hatred for clean air festered. In December she introduced a resolution of disapproval of the EPA's endangerment finding, and the Senate will vote on it as early as January 20.
The exact nature of Murkowski's amendment is still murky. Following last fall's modus operandi, the amendment is to a routine and unrelated matter, here the Senate bill to raise the debt ceiling. She's considering options:
-- Murkowski may offer an amendment that puts a one-year moratorium on EPA's ability to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants.
-- Or she also could hold back for now on a vote and wait until next month on the disapproval resolution, which would retroactively veto EPA's December finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.
-- She's also considering forcing a premature vote on the Kerry-Boxer climate bill to "show the sense of the Senate," according to her spokesperson Robert Dillon. (Kerry-Boxer is not yet ripe for passage; the Finance Committee has not yet held considered and inserted language on allocations, the bill has not yet been merged with the politically popular clean energy-stand alone bill, and the bill hasn't yet been
watered down to appease special interests amended to build coalitions necessary to secure its passage.)
Any Democratic vote favoring any of her proposals will be seized upon and spun as alleged proof that the climate bill can't pass. On the other hand, any Republican vote against her proposals -- and Judd Gregg (R-NH)should know how effectively the Clean Air Act has curtailed acid rain -- will give a green light to the Senate moving forward on the climate bill.
- Murkowski's Reasons For Fiddling While Nome Burns and Kivalina Drowns:
As it turns out, last fall's anti-EPA amendment was written by two lobbyists, both Bush-era EPA appointees who now represent industries that will be harmed by proposed EPA rules. The Washington Post broke the story: a lobbyist for power companies -- the same power companies who would benefit from a one year moratorium on EPA enforcement of rules affecting stationary sources of pollution, such as power plants -- admitted that "I certainly worked with her staff" in drafting the amendment. Further details have emerged on the WaPo's Post Carbon blog; apparently Murkowski's feelings were hurt that EPA attorneys wouldn't talk with her, so she reached out to two Bush-era EPA attorneys-turned-lobbyists. Meanwhile, PolluterWatch, one of Greenpeace's best ideas, has asked Senator Boxer to examine ethical issues, and all 12 Democrats on the Environment & Public Works committee have asked their colleagues to vote against Murkowski's amendment.
Open Secrets also lists her as ranking second in the Senate in donations from the electric utility sector. Not that all that money influences her at all. And those lobbyists were simply acting from the goodness of their hearts in helping out their fellow Americans, and Murkowski's new amendment looks nothing like her old amendment...right?
- Action alert!
No matter what form the Murkowski amendment takes, it's going to be billed in the press as an early referendum on the climate bill and on the EPA. Call your Senator! If you prefer to sign a petition, liberal and environmental groups are circulating petitions.
We can't let the Clean Air Act be gutted by power company lobbyists engaging in Senatorial ventriloquism.
(x-posted at The Seminal)