Deep-pocketed industries and polluters, already basking in this morning's Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for more corporate political influence, got more to smile about when Sen. Lisa Murkowski took the Senate floor this afternoon.
The Alaska Republican introduced a “resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Three Democrats — Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — joined her as co-sponsors. Lincoln, in for the measure, called the EPA "heavy-handed" and criticized the current climate bills, which would have Congress write the ground rules for regulation; instead, she supports an energy bill that would expand off-shore drilling.
Environment supporters say Murkowski's resolution, if it succeeds, would the EPA's ability to protect the public.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) the resolution as an attempt “to brazenly overturn sound scientific work done by our nation’s leading public health experts and prohibit the Environment Protection Agency from doing its job to protect the health and welfare of the American people."
“It is so extreme that it would legally overturn scientists’ very conclusion, based on decades of scientific study, that greenhouse-gas emissions threaten public health and the environment, and it would have the effect of prohibiting the EPA from making the same conclusion in the future,” Merkley wrote.
“It could block any action by the EPA to protect our families, our communities, and our economy from greenhouse-gas pollution.”
The EPA is moving toward greenhouse gas regulation but has yet to take action. In December, it complied with a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring it to determine whether greenhouse gases posed a danger to human health and welfare, and if they did, to regulate. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson issued the agency’s endangerment finding based on that court ruling last month.
Jackson has also started work on the ground rules for regulation, proposing a tailoring rule that would target greenhouse gas regulation to only the largest emitters, industrial facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons a year. When she announced that rule, :
“This is change. It’s not easy. And we can’t expect it to get easy in the months and years ahead. Defenders of the status quo are going to oppose this with everything they have.”
And they did today.
Murkowski, in the resolution, said she had 35 Republicans and three Democrats behind her resolution of disapproval.
The can prohibit rules written by a federal agency from taking effect. In the Senate, the resolution is referred to the relevant committee; if the committee does not act within 20 days, it can be brought to the floor with a petition by 30 members. Either house could reject the resolution, and the president has veto power. However, Senate approval would likely have a chilling effect on climate action in Washington.
Follow the Money
Murkowski made a similar attempt to block the EPA through a budget amendment last fall, but the bill never reached a vote.
Reports in recent weeks have raised serious questions about the motivation behind that earlier effort. They have revealed deep involvement by the very industries the EPA would be regulating.
, both former Bush administration officials now representing companies in those industries, closely guided the writing of Murkowski's earlier bill, the Washington Post reported. One of those lobbyists, Jeffery Holmstead, has represented energy companies that along with their employees and the firm have given at least $126,500 to Murkowski’s campaigns since 2004, according research by Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. It noted that on the companies, Southern Co., has donated $38,000 to Murkowski and owns the top three most-polluting power plants in the nation.
The three Democratic co-sponsors of the new resolution have also benefited from that group. The two lobbyists, their firms, and their climate legislation clients and their employees have been generous: Lincoln has directly received $139,766 from them, Landrieu has received $152,688, and Nelson has received $65,770, according to a Greenpeace .