Lisa Murkowski’s bid to become a climate outlaw
Cross-posted from Wonk Room.
Why is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) behaving like an outlaw? It’s jarring to learn that Sen. Murkowski wants to take away U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries, coal-burning power plants and other smokestack industries. As reported in Environment and Energy Daily, Murkowski has filed a proposed amendment to spending legislation for EPA that would prohibit the agency from regulating greenhouse pollutants except those from cars or other “mobile” sources:
“Senator Murkowski is concerned about the economic consequences of EPA command-and-control regulation of emissions,” said spokesman Robert Dillon. The senator plans to file the amendment, Dillon said, adding that he did not know whether a decision has been made to press for a vote.
Murkowski’s amendment would thwart the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said EPA does have authority under the Clean Air Act to deal with climate pollution, as long as the agency determines that it is a threat to health and/or the environment. EPA is moving ahead with that determination. Because the judicial branch has spoken so definitively, EPA must follow the law. By trying to block the agency through such a sneaky, back-door approach, Murkowski is bidding to become a climate outlaw.
The weird part here is that Murkowski herself has warned about the impact of global warming on Alaska — where, as Politico put it earlier this year, “the Alaskan tundra thaws and fishing villages disappear into the ocean.” USA Today once called Alaska the “poster state” for climate concerns.
And no wonder: Alaska’s climate has warmed about 4°F since the 1950’s. That has prompted more rain, the melting of two major glaciers and permafrost melting which has caused erosion, landslides, and damaged infrastructure. Some coastal towns could be overwhelmed by flooding. Carbon-caused ocean acidification threatens fish populations.
Grotesque evidence of the problem was recently reported as scientists determined the Arctic sea ice had reached the third-lowest level ever recorded: up to 200 walruses, which appear to be mostly new calves and yearlings, were reported dead near Icy Cape on the north coast of Alaska.
We can’t wait to hear Murkowski’s argument should she proceed with this ill-considered idea. Is she going to claim that this is something better handled by Congress? If so, why has she denounced the comprehensive climate legislation approved by the House? We suspect Murkowski is responding to the big campaign contributions she has received from the oil and electric power industries, both of which oppose EPA action. One major contributor is ExxonMobil, which continues to operate in Alaska despite its notoriety over the Exxon Valdez spill.
Several hours after Clean Air Watch alerted reporters by email about the Murkowski plan, a spokesman for Murkowski argued she “is not trying to subvert the process”:
The senator has no interest in trampling on that Supreme Court decision as it relates to mobile sources.
Exactly our point: she does want to trample on the Supreme Court decision as it relates to stationary sources. Murkowski has shown no interest in being constructive on the climate debate, so her defense of waiting for congressional action is obviously a fraud designed only to kill the Clean Air Act. Which is exactly what the Big Oil companies and her other financial supporters want. Her plan to handcuff the EPA is nothing but duplicitous special-interest pandering that should be rejected out of hand.
Get Grist in your inbox