Senator Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska) gave a long impassioned speech when she introduced her “Dirty Air Act” – a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution threatens public health and the environment. One of her complaints was that the threat of impending EPA Clean Air Act implementation would force the Senate into action without ample time for deliberation.

Today, however, as we seek the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we’re being presented with a false choice between unacceptable legislation and unacceptable regulations. We’re being told, threatened really, to “pass a bill now or the economy will suffer.”

Sen. Murkowski’s aversion to threats, however, does not extend to threats that she makes. She told E&E Daily (subscription required) that she would oppose a global warming bill unless it included oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska:

Murkowski said yesterday she would not consider voting for the climate package without drilling in ANWR. “I’m still saying ANWR is one of the must-haves,” Murkowski said.

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That’s right, Sen. Murkowski issued the type of threat she complains about in her speech. Unless Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) include Arctic drilling in their global warming bill, Murkowski won’t vote for it. She made this threat even though Congress rejected Arctic drilling in 2002, 2003, and 2005 – and the Republicans were in the majority the latter two years.

The Arctic would do little to enhance America’s energy security. The Department of Energy determined that it would take at least ten years to produce any oil from the Arctic. It concluded that oil from the Arctic – home to America’s last polar bears and porcupine caribou – would make little difference in overall world oil supplies.

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Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States.

Despite these facts, Murkowski is willing to condemn the planet to more carbon pollution and global warming if she doesn’t get her way. And Alaska is the first state damaged by unchecked emissions.

  • Alaska’s temperature increased up to 4 degrees Fahrenheit – double the increase in the rest of the nation.
  • 31 villages are imminently threatened with erosion, flooding, climate change. Twelve of these villages are already being relocated, at a cost of up to $2.4 billion.
  • Oil production in the North Slope of Alaska requires ice roads to avoid damage to the tundra. The ice road season has been cut in half over the last thirty years due to warming.

Yet Sen. Murkowski wants to take climate change legislation hostage, to be released only if Arctic drilling is included in the package. Fortunately, Sens. Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman won’t capitulate to her demand. E&E reported:

“That’s a deal-breaker,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). “That’s just not going to happen. We’re looking at a lot of things, and that one is a no-no.”

“It’s not in our bill,” added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Sen. Murkowski’s double standard also applies to the timing of when she will force a Dirty Air Act vote. During the introduction of her resolution, she made impassioned pleas for prompt action.

The decision to offer this resolution was brought about by what will happen in the wake of the EPA’s decision to issue the endangerment finding. You see, it is not merely a “finding.” It’s actually a floodgate, and under the guise of protecting the environment, it’s set to unleash a wave of damaging new regulations that will wash over and further submerge our struggling economy.

Despite Sen. Murkowski’s claims of urgency to stop the “floodgate” of greenhouse gas pollution reductions EPA is poised to “unleash,” she plans to bide her time for maximum political – and perhaps campaign – advantage. E&E reported:

Murkowski signaled yesterday that the vote might be delayed. She is still looking at mid-March, she said, “but there’s not a lot of time in mid-March. And who knows what’s going on with health care. We’ve got a window of opportunity beyond that that we can advance it, so we’ve got to figure it out.”

Murkowski has a window of several months to call for a vote on the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which establishes special procedures for disapproving agency rules. The act gives the senator until late May or early June, said the senator’s spokesman Robert Dillon.

“There’s no reason to hurry,” Dillon said. “She’s using the time to maximize her time to talk to senators.”

Her delay also provides an opportunity for Big Oil and other special interests to advertise in favor of the Dirty Air Act, and unleash their lobbyists to personally arm twist senators to support her. And it provides her with more time to raise campaign cash from oil, utility and other interests while she is doing their bidding. Murkowski has received the third most oil and gas money this election cycle, with her Dirty Air Act cosponsor Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) first.

So Senator Lisa Murkowski says she wants to block EPA from setting global warming pollution standards because they’re a threat that could force the Senate to legislate. But she threatens to oppose pollution reduction legislation unless Arctic oil drilling is part of the package. And she warns that EPA’s establishment of standards poses an immediate threat to the American economy, but Murkowski plans to dawdle before offering her resolution to block EPA to gain political advantage. Sen. Murkowski’s blatant hypocrisy exemplifies what troubles Americans about their government.