There is a big push by oil and coal state lawmakers, with most Republicans happily on the bandwagon, to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Leading the charge is Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is the author of a resolution that would block EPA action by “disapproving” its finding that GHG emissions endanger public health and welfare.
The resolution was defeated earlier this summer, but Murkowski is undeterred and has pledged to try again.
Senator Murkowski, with her state already enduring serious impacts from climate change, has expressed concern about the problem and, at times, seemed open to placing limits on the GHG emissions that scientists agree are causing it.
However, given the zeal with which she is currently trying to block any limits on these emissions, it appears that any concern she may have about the health of our atmosphere is trumped by her desire to preserve the oil industry’s ability to pollute.
Murkowski, along with many other Senators who support these limits, has framed this attack on EPA and its Clean Air Act authority as an effort to place responsibility for addressing GHG emissions in the hands of Congress “where it belongs.”
It is true that Congress could adopt market-friendly legislation that discourages GHG pollution by placing a price on it—similar to the approach conceived by the Reagan Administration that successfully reduced other pollutants such as lead in gasoline and sulfur-dioxide from power plants.
In the context of such legislation, it would certainly be fair to assess EPA’s responsibility and ensure against over-lapping regulations that interfere with the way the price signal is supposed to function.
Murkowski’s framing insinuates that her resolution is paving the way for Congress to take action.
Unfortunately, that is not what is going on here.
Murkowski has not been pushing at all for legislation to price carbon, and efforts by sponsors of such legislation to gain her support have been unsuccessful.
Instead she is putting all of her energy and passion into preempting EPA. “You attack it at all fronts,” Murkowski recently told Politico. “You go the judicial route. You go the legislative route.”
Furthermore, the prospects for climate legislation passing Congress this year have been sunk by a combination of inept Democrat leadership and Republicans who reflexively oppose any legislation to price GHG pollution. The outlook for next year is uncertain at best.
The refrain “Congress needs a chance to act” is becoming more laughable each year. Since 1993 the Senate has considered numerous climate bills, many of them bi-partisan, but each time partisan politics and special interest influence have prevented the “world’s greatest deliberative body” from even having a constructive debate.
If it was not clear before, it should be now. Murkowski’s resolution has nothing to do with Congress passing climate legislation. It is an effort solely designed to ensure that the fossil fuel industries can continue pumping GHG pollution into the atmosphere without restraint.
It is time for any member of Congress who still supports Senator Murkowski’s endeavor—or similar efforts—to drop all pretenses and tell the voters why they support the unfettered polluting of our life-sustaining atmosphere.