Friday, May 21, 2010

Climate Bill Goes Nowhere; Murkowski Still Trying to Derail the Clean Air Act

Last week, Senators Kerry and Lieberman released a draft version of the American Power Act (APA), what was once commonly referred to as "Kerry-Graham-Lieberman" but lost the "Graham" over immigration issues that don't actually exist and an oil spill that should be prompting co-sponsorship on clean energy legislation, not impeding it.

Senator Bingaman, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and co-sponsor of the current energy bill in the Senate (ACELA), appropriately called Graham out on his ridiculous antics yesterday:
"I can't keep up with his various conditions…It's hard to say why the failure to complete the investigation of [the Deep Horizon oil] spill would be a justification for not limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It seems to me a stretch."
After taking a bizarrely ironic position in the aftermath of the oil spill (read: oil isn't popular right now, so oil-loving Republicans are having an awfully hard time selling their drilling expansion provisions to the rest of the Senate), Graham now says that he can't support the bill that he helped write.

But what's worse, he is co-sponsoring the resolution of disapproval put forward by Senator Murkowski to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, essentially doing away with the scientific finding by the EPA that such emissions are an endangerment to public health (a bit of an understatement). And Graham thinks the resolution will pass (thankfully, if it does pass the Senate, it probably won't pass the House, and the President can always veto it).

Here's the most frustrating part: The APA (which, by the way, is a pretty awful bill as a whole) already includes a provision to strip the EPA of that authority. Why would you take away the ability for the executive branch to regulate global warming pollution before you have a legislative mechanism to do so, which also takes away that ability? Here's what Graham said:
"Some people will say carbon shouldn't be regulated at all, I think that's the minority view. I think the majority of the body will say that Congress should set the carbon regulations, not the EPA."
Yes, the majority of the Senate will say that Congress should set the regulations. But firstly, a majority doesn't mean anything in the Senate, remember? And secondly, the APA is currently so dismal as a tool and so panders to the very sources of our worst emissions that it's starting to look unlikely that more progressive Democrats will support it, if for no other reason than the fact that the EPA can regulate without giving huge handouts to coal, nuclear, oil, and manufacturers that might not even be making efficient changes to their energy usage.

The bottom line is this: if Congress is not willing to step up to the plate on carbon regulations, someone has to. The Supreme Court has given EPA the authority to do so, and Congress simply can't take that authority away without a viable alternative. It's a good thing we have a House (for now) and a President who see the light on this issue. But there's no guarantee that things will stay that way, and we need to get widespread public support for a climate mitigation scheme before the deniers take control of our legislative bodies and further put our planet at risk.

Images: Kerry-Graham-Lieberman, sans Graham (triplepundit)

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