On June 10th, we all celebrated the defeat of the Murkowski resolution, which would have gutted the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution. Why we needed to defeat Murkowski was explained well by NRDC Action Fund Executive Director, Peter Lehner, who wrote the following prior to the vote:
EPA's proactive lead in greenhouse gas regulation is a critical aspect of the effort to reduce our rampant, destabilizing, and destructive dependence on foreign and offshore oil. While the endangerment finding does not, in itself, prescribe regulations, it provides the legal basis for critical standards: EPA's proposed CAFE efficiency standard for light-duty vehicles is projected to save over 455 million barrels per year, and an anticipated standard for heavy-duty vehicles will save billions more. Stripping EPA of its authority to implement these protections would increase our nation's dependence on oil and send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas. We cannot afford this big step backward, especially as we watch more oil gush into the Gulf each day.
In the end, the Senate didn't take that “big step backward” on June 10th, as the Murkowski resolution failed by a 47-53 vote. Many of us probably figured that was the end of this issue, and that the Senate would now move on to passing comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Unfortunately, as is often the case in Washington, DC, it isn't that simple (let alone logical).
Today, clean air and public health are once again under an assault that constitutes, essentially, “Murkowski Part II.” The Wall Street Journal reported on June 22:
As U.S. Senate lawmakers attempt to determine the fate of energy legislation, an influential Democrat is boosting efforts to suspend a controversial greenhouse-gas rule passed earlier this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
After introducing a bill to impose a two-year halt on the new EPA rule, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, is now working to round up supporters for his legislation.
It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable. As we all know, the public was outraged at Senator Murkowski's Big Oil Bailout bill. They understood that this moved the country backward, not forward, and that it was exactly the wrong way to go given the energy and environmental challenges we face. Through all our efforts, our phone calls and emails (and blog posts and tweets, etc.), we helped to kill Murkowski Part I. Now, unfortunately, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is pushing Murkowski Part II, yet there's far less attention being paid to this effort than to the Murkowski's EPA Castration Resolution Part I. People have a lot of other things on their minds, and they thought this fight was over back in June. But, once they find out that this effort is baaaaack, like a monster in a cheesy horror movie, they are not going to respond positively.
Of course, why would the public – which overwhelmingly supports taking action to promote clean energy and deal with climate change – ever respond positively to a proposal aimed at throwing away one of our key tools to cut pollution and protect public health? And why would they respond positively now of all times, as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, as record heat waves scorch the United States, and as climate science is strengthened every day that goes by? Last but not least, why would they support an effort to protect the corporate polluters and not all of us who are being hurt by that pollution?
The bottom line is simple: instead of wasting its time on legislation that will only move the country backwards – towards dirty energy forever – the Senate should be busy passing a bill that moves the country forward towards a bright future of green energy, clean tech jobs, energy security and climate protection. Once our Senators hear that message loud and clear from all of us, Rockefeller's Murkowski Part II will be rejected by the Senate, just as Murkowski Part I was before it.