Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2010

MURKOWSKI LETS THE LOBBYISTS DO THE WORK... When it comes to combating emissions generating climate change, policymakers have a choice. They can approve cap and trade or a similar measure, or they can let the Environmental Protection Agency combat global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act.

The latter approach isn't ideal, but the EPA has nevertheless declared that greenhouse gases are a dangerous public-health hazard and must be regulated by the government. The agency's "endangerment finding" is the result of a study ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 on the effects of greenhouse gas pollution on human health and welfare.

So, the EPA has the authority to act, but we're waiting to see what lawmakers, many of whom prefer to do nothing, come up with. At this point, conservatives have a new plan: instead of addressing the climate crisis, let's remove the EPA's authority to act.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday left open the possibility that she would seek a vote next week on stopping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from going forward with regulations to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.

"I do not believe and I don't believe that most of my colleagues in the Senate believe that the EPA is the entity that is the best suited to develop climate-change policy for this country," Ms. Murkowski (R., Alaska) told reporters. "I'm trying to get a time-out. I'm trying to allow the legislative process to proceed. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to have a vote that will allow for that discussion."

And if the legislative process fails to proceed -- an outcome Republicans hope to guarantee -- then the crisis can continue to worsen.

Best of all, Murkowski's amendment was crafted by two corporate lobbyists, Jeffrey R. Holmstead and Roger R. Martella, Jr., both of whom worked on environmental policy for Bush/Cheney, but have since cultivated an interesting client list.

Holmstead represents industry interests including Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy and the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council on climate matters, according to congressional lobbying registration forms, while Martella represents the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the Alliance of Food Associations on the same subject.

For what it's worth, a Scott Brown (R) victory in Massachusetts would make any environmental progress impossible -- not only would every bill be filibustered, but Brown prefers to reject the evidence provided by climate scientists.

Steve Benen 1:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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" ...not only would every bill be filibustered..." the Democrats should change the majority to 55 rather than 60 votes. that will make life easier and easier to pass legislation.

Posted by: mljohnston on January 13, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

If Dems can't muster 41 votes to filibuster Murkowski's bill then they don't deserve to be in the majority.

Posted by: Atlliberal on January 13, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Conservatives" understand that unmitigated anthropogenic global warming will kill off 99 percent of humanity.

Leaving only the wealthiest and most powerful "top one percent" to inherit the Earth.

That's why they don't see global warming as a problem.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 13, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that the EPA's authority to regulate is major leverage in negotiations over the Senate cap-and-trade bill. If the oil and coal industries and their Republican allies can take that away, then defeating cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate will be even easier.

Posted by: popomo on January 13, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Even if the Senate passes it (ha) and the House as well (ha!), do you think Obama would sign it? He'd veto it in a blink.

Posted by: MobiusKlein on January 13, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Watching America's drunkard's walk.1

For what it's worth, a Scott Brown (R) victory in Massachusetts would make any environmental progress impossible -- not only would every bill be filibustered, but Brown prefers to reject the evidence provided by climate scientists.

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Posted by: koreyel on January 13, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

great! murkowski's state is melting away, and her response is let's doing nothing! perhaps alaskan voters ought to put her on an ice floe and let greenhouse gases do their thing, figuratively speaking.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 13, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I wouldn't get too worked up about Brown's chances. Yes, I'll be voting and getting my friends to vote, but really the guy is a neocon throwback and he ain't gettin' elected in my state.

Posted by: GP on January 13, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

this is how the Republicans roll. When they took over Congress after the 1994 elections, one of their first bills in 1995 was part of the DOT budget authorization, which forbid the EPA (or any other agency) from imposing CAFE rules on fuel maileage. It was co-sponsored by most the GOP leadership and the Michigan congressional delegation (so it was "bi-partisan", as it were). And then I remember the nerve of Spencer Abraham (Bush's first Energy Secretary) taking the Clinton Administration to task for "doing nothing" to stop our dependence on foreign oil.

but that's how they do it - they don't control the Executive Branch, but they manage to pick off enough special interest legislators beholden to the auto industry to pass bills in Congress prohibiting anybody from doing anything.

Posted by: andy on January 13, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Two sides to this coin. The EPA can't handle the environmental violations it already gets. Don't hand more work to an already crippled agency.

During the Bush administration, environmental regulating was effectively placed on a choke chain by federal budget cuts and manpower shortages. The Corps permitting processes were undermined by lack of staff, resulting in pushing paper rather than effective regulation and the EPA's caseloads were taken on by severity, leaving far too many lesser violations to go unchallenged.

That is what happens when the federal government changes hands. Good programs which are hard won and often implemented at the cost of other good progams, get gutted by the opposition and are no longer effective and are reported as not effective by that same opposition and many are eventually sacked because of it.

Environmental shepherding requires the long view, a buy-in across both parties, not a fragile program vulnerable to the ax of the next administration.

The EPA is too vulnerable to political whim.

Posted by: Not America Anymore on January 13, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

"...do you think Obama would sign it?" MobiusKlein @ 2:20 PM.

Considering that it is an amendment to the bill that raises the Federal Debt ceiling? Yes!

Posted by: Doug on January 13, 2010 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

@Doug @7:31
Wow, they are assholes.

I'd still veto it if I was president. But unlike Obama, I'd telegraph way ahead of time that it's going to be vetoed if it comes all lit up with stupid amendments like that.

Posted by: MobiusKlein on January 14, 2010 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: felix on January 14, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK
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