The Diamondback has been slow about posting its opinion columns this summer, so my column out today isn’t online or linkable. However, two weeks ago I wrote an op-ed column on the need to protect the Clean Air Act, which was under attack from Republicans and coal/oil state Democrats. Ultimately, the attempt to gut the portion of the Clean Air Act that allows EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions failed. However, this debate is still relevant since there is the possibility there will eventually be a vote on a weaker resolution of disapproval being pushed by WV Senator Jay Rockefeller which would delay EPA action for 2 years. Below is my column from two weeks ago, which I timed with the Senate vote on the resolution.
Clean Air Act: Protecting the green initiative
By Matt Dernoga
Today, the Senate is going to vote on whether or not to gut the Clean Air Act. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) is introducing what’s called a Resolution of Disapproval, titled S.J. Res 26, which would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from our largest and dirtiest coal plants. S.J. Res 26 would also block the Obama administration’s move last year to mandate new fuel economy standards of 35.5 miles per gallon for new cars and trucks by 2016, as well as recent moves to develop new standards for medium and heavy duty trucks.
The basis for new standards is the administration’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. They would save the U.S. over 1.8 billion barrels of oil over their lifespan, an average of $3,000 for someone who buys a car in 2016, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million metric tons. The truck rule is also estimated to save truckers and consumers $24 billion dollars in the year 2030 and create about 120,000 jobs nationwide. These facts are why both the automobile and truck industries have applauded and stood behind these standards. S.J. Res 26 would erase this.
Ironically, one of the biggest losers in this would be Murkowski’s home state of Alaska, notoriously one of the states most impacted from rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The state is literally burning to a crisp as warming temperatures, drier air and millions of acres of dead forest cause unprecedented wildfires.
The grim reaper for the forest comes in the form of a tiny bark beetle that’s migrating further north because of milder winters, and reproducing faster during warmer summers at the same time. All the new dead wood is like throwing a gigantic log into an out of control fireplace.
Murkowski has even acknowledged these impacts, saying in a speech a few years ago: “Native whaling captains tell me that the ice pack is less stable, and that there is more open water requiring them to travel greater distances to hunt. The snowpack is coming later and melting earlier than in years past. Salmon are showing up in subsistence nets in greater numbers across the arctic. Different types of vegetation now grow where they never grew before. The migratory patterns of animals have changed. Warmer, drier air has allowed the voracious spruce bark beetle to migrate north, moving through our forests in the south-central part of the state. At last count, over three million acres of forest land has been devastated by the beetle, providing dry fuel for outbreaks of enormous wild fires. To give you some perspective, that is almost the size of Connecticut. Times have changed and we need a new Arctic policy.”
Taking away the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act would be a profit windfall for the oil companies, an early Christmas present for big coal and a collective head-in-the-sand headstand by Senate on the need for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also a terrible Arctic policy, Senator Murkowski.
Contact your Senator. Tell them to protect the Clean Air Act, and vote no on S.J. Res 26.
Matt Dernoga graduated in May with a degree in government and politics. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.