The Dernogalizer

June 24, 2010

A Slight Blast From the Past

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 9:13 pm
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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.

June 11, 2010

Bernie Sanders: Science Over Politics

Kudos to Bernie Sanders for telling it like it is in the run up to the failed vote for gutting the Clean Air Act

June 10, 2010

Breaking: Murkowski Amendment Goes Down

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:31 pm
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Murkowski’s amendment to gut the Clean Air Act has been defeated, although the vote was closer than it should have been.

The vote was 47-53

The Democrats who voted in favor were Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Jay Rockefeller, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, and Ben Nelson

All Republicans voted for it

June 9, 2010

Organizing for America: Protect Clean Air Act

It’s good to see Obama’s grassroots group mobilizing some support for the defeat of Lisa Murkoski’s resolution to gut the Clean Air Act.  Below is the e-mail sent to me by them that makes a good case for protecting the act.

Matt —

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, with strong support from the big oil companies, has introduced a resolution that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas pollution — and dismantle the bipartisan Clean Air Act.

If her measure becomes law, the effects would be immediate. Nearly every step President Obama has taken to promote clean energy would be repealed. It would wreak havoc on the President’s landmark clean vehicle standards that ensure cars go farther on a gallon of gas, and it would block requirements that force large power plants and factories to use new technology and clean energy to reduce their pollution.

This resolution is a giant step backward. As it is, other nations are already taking the lead in transitioning to clean energy economies that create the jobs of the future. Now Sen. Murkowski and her Republican allies, who have taken millions from big oil companies and other polluters, want to lock us in the past.

Lobbyists representing big business and dirty energy are pressing senators to support Sen. Murkowski. It’s time lawmakers hear from citizens who support combating climate change.

Will you write your senators today? Let them know that you strongly oppose Sen. Murkowski’s resolution, and that they have your thanks if they oppose it too.

Sen. Murkowski has filed her resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the authority to overturn the actions of an executive branch agency. Under the law, resolutions only require 51 votes to pass.

The vote is scheduled for Thursday, and there’s no time to wait. Senators need to hear from you.

Write your lawmakers now:

http://my.barackobama.com/FightMurkowski

Thanks,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America

Protect the Clean Air Act

Here is a video from 1Sky explain what’s at stake on Thursday with Lisa Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval to gut the Clean Air Act.  You can also check out their page for making calls to your Senators to tell them to vote no.

February 10, 2010

Polluter Harmony!

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:50 pm
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Great video and website.  Good for Lisa Murkowski.

January 22, 2010

More on Murkowski trying to prevent EPA from regulating pollution

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:42 pm
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The following is a cross-post from the Media Consortium’s weekly Mulch, which gives an overview of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to gut the Clean Air Act.

Weekly Mulch: Murkowski Vs. the EPA

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) pulled out a rarely-used Congressional tool in an attempt to keep the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon and other greenhouse gasses. Sen. Murkowski offered a “resolution of disapproval” of the EPA’s impending action, which would limit companies’ carbon emissions.

The resolution would overturn the EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide is harmful to the public health. Three Democrats—Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)—joined Sen. Murkowski and 35 Republicans in sponsoring the resolution.

“Ms. Murkowski’s Mischief‘”

“This command and control approach is our worst option for reducing the gasses associated with climate change,” said Sen. Murkowski on the floor of the Senate yesterday. She called the EPA’s actions “backdoor climate regulations with no input from Congress” and said they would damage the country’s flailing economy.

The EPA first announced in April 2009 that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses posed a threat to the public health. The agency formalized that finding last month, giving itself the power to regulate emissions of greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act. In March 2010, for instance, the agency is expected to announce carbon emissions rules for the auto industry that would match California’s higher standards. Sen. Murkowski’s resolution would derail that process.

Sen. Murkowski argued that she wants to give Congress room to come up with a legislative solution to climate change, but her critics see a more dangerous tilt to her resolution. “It’s a radical attempt by the legislative branch to interfere with executive branch scientists,” writes David Roberts at Grist.

Responding to “Ms. Murskowski’s mischief” on the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called the resolution an “unprecedented effort to overturn scientific decision” and “a direct assault on the health of the American people.”

Resolution of disapproval

What is a “resolution of disapproval?” Grist’s Roberts called it “the nuclear option.”

“It would rescind the EPA’s endangerment finding entirely and thereby eliminate its authority over both mobile and stationary sources,” Roberts explains. “Furthermore, the administration would be prohibited from passing a regulation “substantially the same” as the one overruled, so the constraint on the EPA would effectively be permanent.”

This type of resolution was created by the Clinton-era Congressional Reform Act. The resolution has one big advantage: It cannot be filibustered. Passage requires only a majority in both houses of Congress. Members have tried using it in the past to delay the Dubai Ports World deal, derail FCC regulations on new media, and stop the flow of bailout funds.

Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones has been following Sen. Murkowski’s actions closely. She reports that “Senate supporters of climate action say Murkowski could obtain the votes of moderate Democrats from coal, oil, and manufacturing states. However, a resolution would still need to be approved by the House and signed by the president—both long shots, to put it mildly. ‘I think we’re a little worried about [Murkowski’s resolution] winning. I’m not sure we’re worried about it becoming law,’ a Senate Democratic staffer says.”

But Grist’s Roberts argues that passage in the Senate alone would be a problem. “Even if blocked by the House or vetoed by the president, such a public, bipartisan slap at the administration would be highly embarrassing and demoralizing,” Roberts writes. “It would mean at least ten conservative Democrats washing their hands of the administration’s initiative.”

Climate change and Congress

Sen. Murkowski insists that she’s still ready to work with her colleagues on climate change and that it’s better to approach the problem of climate change via legislation, not regulation.

But no one in Washington believes that climate change legislation is going to pass—even come to the Senate floor—any time soon. The issue was already in line behind health care, and the election of Republican candidate Scott Brown to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat this week means that none of the bills that the Senate is working on are likely to come to a vote this year.

“There was hope that the [climate] bill would come to the floor in the spring,” writes Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. “Regrettably, a narrow majority of Massachusetts voters have made it significantly more likely that Congress won’t address the problem at all. Proponents focused on solutions have vowed to “persist,” but Massachusetts has made a difficult situation considerably worse.”

The role of special interests

Sen. Murkowski has come under criticism for allowing Bush-era EPA administrators, now lobbyists representing clients on climate change issues, to help her craft an earlier amendment cracking down on the EPA. Yesterday, she said that those criticisms are “categorically false.”

But as JP Leous reports at Care2, Sen. Murkowski does receive substantial backing from energy industries that oppose climate change legislation and regulation.

“According to OpenSecrets.org Sen. Murkowski has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from polluting companies, and some of her biggest campaign contributors in recent years include firms with fossil-fueled motives like Exxon Mobil Corp,” Leous writes “Add those dots into the mix and a different picture emerges — and it starts to look like a person who is poised to introduce legislation next week attacking the Clean Air Act.”

On the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Boxer charged, “Why would the Senate get in the business of repealing science? Because that’s what the special interests want to have happen now. Because they’re desperate.”

The Democratic Senators who co-sponsored the resolution also come from energy producing states where companies object to the new EPA regulations.

If at first you don’t succeed…

If Sen. Murkowski’s resolution does pass the Senate, there’s little chance it will pass the House as well. But this isn’t the only option that regulation opponents are looking at to fight the EPA. The Chamber of Commerce and other groups are planning to challenge the regulatory action in court, as Mother Jones’ Sheppard reports.

Last week, these opponents met to discuss their strategy. What’s interesting, Sheppard says, is that “the group was apparently divided on the best course of action. The Hill observes that “two camps have emerged.” One wants to challenge whatever rules the EPA issues, while another wants to question the science of global warming itself.”

We’re back to that old saw? With legislation off the table, the fight over climate change, for now, is in the regulatory arena.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

January 19, 2010

NWF Targets Lisa Murkowski

Contact: Miles Grant, 202-797-6855

New Ad Targets Sen. Murkowski’s Attack on Clean Air Act
WASHINGTON, DC (January 19. 2010) – The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund unveiled a new television ad today criticizing Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s attacks on the Clean Air Act. As soon as Wednesday, Sen. Murkowski may unveil an amendment to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate carbon pollution from the largest polluters such as coal-fired power plants. According to reports in the Washington Post, polluter lobbyists have played roles in planning the strategy.

“Given the threats Alaska faces due to global warming, it’s mystifying that Sen. Murkowski would be fighting to open a new carbon pollution loophole in the Clean Air Act while working closely with lobbyists from outside Alaska,” said Sue Brown, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. “Sen. Murkowski has taken a wrong turn with this amendment that leads to a dead end on clean energy jobs and creates uncertainty about Congress’ commitment to new direction on energy. She should put Alaska first and drop this misguided attack on the Clean Air Act.”

The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund is the 501(c)4 grassroots lobbying and accountability arm of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest conservation organization. The NWF Action Fund advocates for the conservation interests of hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life and political stripes.

Alaska’s average winter temperatures have already risen 5 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit in just the last 60 years. Temperatures could rise another 5 to 9 degrees if carbon pollution continues unchecked, according to the Arctic Climate Impacts Assessment. Melting permafrost, more intense forest fires, and pest infestations are among the consequences. Loss of wildlife and habitat could mean a loss of tourism dollars. In 2006, more than 691,000 people spent nearly $1.4 billion on hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in Alaska, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The ad will run in Alaska and Washington, DC with the total buy topping $125,000. View the ad at NWFActionFund.org.

***

The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund is the 501(c)4 grassroots lobbying and accountability arm of the National Wildlife Federation. NWF Action Fund is an organization that advocates for the conservation interests of hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life and political stripes. We are committed to encouraging participation in the democratic process and inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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NY Times Editorial Blasts Lisa Murkowski for trying to gut the Clean Air Act

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:49 pm
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The NY Times has an editorial today worth re-posting, as it takes Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski to task over her amendment tomorrow which will try to gut the Clear Air Act and prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s home state of Alaska is ever so slowly melting away, courtesy of a warming planet. Yet few elected officials seem more determined than she to throw sand in the Obama administration’s efforts to do something about climate change.

As part of an agreement that allowed the Senate to get out of town before Christmas, Democratic leaders gave Ms. Murkowski and several other Republicans the chance to offer amendments to a must-pass bill lifting the debt ceiling. Voting on that bill begins this week. Although she has not showed her hand, Ms. Murkowski has been considering various proposals related to climate change — all mischievous.

One would block for one year any effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. This would prevent the administration from finalizing its new and much-needed standards for cars and light trucks and prevent it from regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources.

Ms. Murkowski also is mulling a “resolution of disapproval” that would ask the Senate to overturn the E.P.A.’s recent “endangerment finding” that carbon dioxide and other global warming gases threaten human health and the environment. This finding flowed from a 2007 Supreme Court decision and is an essential precondition to any regulation governing greenhouse gases. Rescinding the finding would repudiate years of work by America’s scientists and public health experts.

Ms. Murkowski says she’s concerned about global warming but worries even more about what she fears would be a bureaucratic nightmare if the E.P.A. were allowed to regulate greenhouse gases. She says she would prefer a broad legislative solution. So would President Obama. But unlike Ms. Murkowski, he would not unilaterally disarm the E.P.A. before Congress has passed a bill.

Judging by the latest and daffiest idea to waft from Ms. Murkowski’s office, she may not want a bill at all. Last fall, the Senate environment committee approved a cap-and-trade scheme that seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on them. The Democratic leadership’s plan is to combine the bill with other energy-related measures to broaden the base of support; by itself, it cannot pass.

Knowing that the bill is not ripe, Ms. Murkowski may bring it up for a vote anyway as an amendment to the debt bill. Why? To shoot it down. The tactic would give us a “barometric reading” of where the Senate stands on cap-and-trade, one Murkowski staffer said recently. What it really gives us is a reading on how little the senator — or for that matter, her party — has to offer.

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