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Sen. Murkowski Launches Attack on EPA, with 3 Democratic Co-Sponsors

by Stacy Morford

Jan 21, 2010

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 .

Getting Political on Clean Energy

To counteract the likes of Senator Murkowski, we progressives need to take a page from the Republican playbook. It’s time to re-package the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454) as the American Tax and Deficit Reduction Act of 2010. Let me explain.

Let’s begin by stripping everything out of the Clean Energy Act except for bare-bones cap and trade and the existing schedule of carbon emissions caps. Require that all cap-and-trade emission allowances be auctioned off with the revenues deposited in the U.S. Treasury. Use the revenues for three purposes: across the board income tax reductions, increases in earned income tax credits (so the poor benefit), and deficit reduction. From 2012 through 2050 under the existing caps in the Clean Energy Act, on the order of 5 to 8 trillion dollars in revenue will be generated from allowance auctions assuming reasonably that the allowance price will increase to somewhere around $100 a metric ton by 2030 and persist near that level through 2050. Front-load the tax reductions and credits to help along our sputtering economic recovery from the Great Recession. Require that a fixed share of the total of all revenues collected go to deficit reduction, but delay action on this requirement until after 2020 or later to allow economic recovery plenty of time to take hold. The economic burden of rising fossil fuel costs will not be noticeable for a decade or more because of the projected slow rise in carbon allowance prices from shrinking caps, but the benefits will kick in right away. Taxpayers will get economic relief immediately and political concerns about deficit spending should melt away. By the time carbon allowance prices rise to significant levels, an economic boom should be underway sparked by the creation of an entirely new domestic clean energy industry located within the borders of our own country. No longer will we be shaken down by Arab oil sheiks to the turn of $400 billion annually for imported oil. This money will instead be diverted to American businesses and workers. A shift to clean energy of such a magnitude will cause economies of scale to kick in and prevent significant increases in the typical consumer’s total energy bill. By 2050 we will have gotten ourselves unhooked from fossil fuels, and if other countries follow suit, the problem of global warming will have been stopped in its tracks.

The immediate political benefits of such an approach are obvious. Democrats get to deliver what Republicans love best of all—tax cuts. On top of this, the Democrats will be able to point to concrete achievements on reducing the national debt as well as stimulating job growth and economic recovery. I honestly don’t see how Republicans or fossil fuel industry lobbyists could gain much political traction opposing cap and trade set in the context of income tax and deficit reduction. Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?

And we could all have pet

And we could all have pet unicorns and ride magic brooms to work!

What are companies going to do to pay for these emission allowances they will have to buy? Oh I know, they will raise their prices so the consumer will pay for them. Except with the added layer of government bureaucracy the tax cuts will be less than the money paid for the allowances. This will more than negate any income tax reduction. And you raelly think the government, whether Democrat or Republican, will just let that money they collect sit? No just like with Social Security they will 'borrow' the money to pay for their pet projects, further reducing any tax cut.

Also since there are many countries with no allowances required many businesses will move their operations out of the US. Meaning a lose of jobs and less income from the auction of the allowances.

And since the current 'clean energy industry' can't economically provide the enregy the country needs now, the rise in energy costs will be front load and not deferred until later. There is also no assurance that economy of scale will bring prices down especially since some of the materials used are in very short supply and there is also no assurance that future scientific advances will make them more effiecent or cheaper.

Concise science?

What concise science? Do you mean the melting glaciers that the IPCC now say was a mistake? Or the temperature data that was manipulated by the British in Climategate? Or the computer models that keep having to be adjusted because they can't get it quite right?

The elected officials of the US should determine the appropriate response to the claims of climate change and not political appointees. This is what the resolution does. It puts the ball back in Congress where it belongs and where it can be openly debated with input from the people.

America Under Attack

It's hard to understand, in the face of so much concise scientific evidence, that some of our politicians would undertake legislation to only undermines the health and well-being of our country, but this is happening now!

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