The Senate and House have cast important votes to determine the future of carbon emissions regulations in the U.S. Thankfully the news is good.
Advocates for strong action on climate change and the nearly 3/4 Americans who believe the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should protect public health, are celebrating an important victory. Yesterday the Senate rejected multiple proposals to end the EPA climate authority. Now climate deniers and big polluters (including the Koch brothers) are mourning a significant defeat and blow to their dirty energy agenda.
Notably, four amendments to small business legislation, entirely for the purpose of limiting the EPA’s role in regulating carbon emissions, were defeated. Three were from Democrats, mainly Max Baucus (MT), Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Jay Rockefeller (WV), whose amendment to halt EPA use of the Clean Air Act for two years fell 88-12. The final blow (or fail) for polluter-friendly legislators came when Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) proposed an amendment to exempt power plants, refineries and other carbon polluters from oversight. His amendment was a precursor to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and House colleague Fred Upton’s (R-MI) bill to end the EPA’s power to protect public health and the environment from the effects of climate change, known as H.R. 910 the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011”. Needing 60 votes to pass and securing only 50 votes in support.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke to the importance of defeating the destructive amendments and the need to let the EPA continue to protect the public:
“Today, the Senate stood up for children and families by defeating four amendments that would have interfered with EPA’s efforts to protect the health and safety of the American public.”
Unfortunately, Republicans plan to continue their wrongheaded attacks on the EPA and Clean Air Act in spite of the defeat of the McConnell amendment and the Inhofe-Upton bill. In all, some 64 Senators voted for one of the four amendments, which the Republicans are already flaunting as further reason to rein in the EPA. The McConnell amendment for its part won four Democrats’ support including: Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), Mark Pryor (AK) and Ben Nelson (NE). On the other side, a single Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME), voted to uphold the EPA’s authority. In all, some 17 dirty energy Senate Democrats opposed the EPA’s authority, across one of the four amendments.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), ranking Republican on the Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, vowed to continue fighting against controlling carbon emissions and protecting health:
“I think you will see an effort in the future. How that comes about remains to be seen…”
“I don’t know the vehicle, I don’t know the format, but we are not done with it, that is for sure.”
Today’s House of Representatives symbolic vote 255-172 in favour of eliminating the EPA’s authority also won the support from 19 House Democrats. Since the same H.R. 910 legislation failed in the Senate, and the President stated he would likely use his veto were the bill to pass the House, this bill was dead before arrival.
Leading up to the House vote this afternoon, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and ranking Democrat on Upton’s Energy and Commerce Committee proposed a failed amendment (184-240) calling for the basic recognition of climate science. It reads:
“Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate changes is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.”
Yes, 240 members of Congress won’t even recognize the fundamental science underpinning climate change, even though it has been corroborated and strengthened at every turn by every major scientific body on the planet.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) described Congress’ failure saying:
“This bill would ignore the warnings of the respected scientific community simply because policymakers don’t like what the science is telling us.”
While the House of Representative votes are negative and are setbacks for strong climate action, there are some positives that emerged from this Republican inspired effort to halt EPA clean air controls. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) proposed several amendments to rename the Inhofe-Upton bill, formally known as the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011” to the “Koch Brothers Appreciation Act.” As alternatives he also offered the “Middle Eastern Economic Development and Assistance Act,” the “Head in the Sand Act,” the “Protecting Americans from Polar Bears Act” and the “Oil Producing Economy Capitulation Act.”
Climate change won its biggest victory since Republican climate zombies were elected en masse to Congress. Hopefully the Senate vote will serve as a rebuke to their position. At the very least, future efforts to limit the EPA and carbon emissions regulation can be described for what they are, “Koch Brothers Appreciation.”