The Obama administration's top environmental official and advocacy groups are using the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to boost opposition to a Republican-led effort to block U.S. EPA climate rules.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed today that in the wake of the spill, it is "surprising to learn" that the Senate will vote Thursday "on legislation that will take us back to the same old failed policies and increase America's oil dependence by billions of barrels."
The Senate is slated to vote Thursday on a resolution from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would undo EPA's "endangerment" finding for greenhouse gases, a determination that paves the way for agency climate rules (E&E Daily, June 7).
"Senator Lisa Murkowski, with strong support from big oil companies and their lobbyists, has proposed a resolution that would drastically weaken our nation's historic effort to increase fuel savings, save consumers money and cut oil consumption from American cars and trucks," Jackson wrote.
Jackson and others have warned that the resolution will upend savings and emission reductions anticipated under joint EPA and Transportation Department standards that seek to raise the fuel economy of the nation's passenger fleet and impose the first-ever federal greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and trucks beginning next year.
"This week, we are going to debate a resolution of disapproval that will prevent DOT and EPA from working together to slow the pollution from heavy-duty vehicles," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today. "The result of this resolution would be to waste at least 450 million more barrels of oil than we need to."
Murkowski and her supporters see the resolution as their best chance of blocking Clean Air Act climate rules, which they say will cause widespread damage to the economy. The resolution would need 51 votes to clear the Senate using the Congressional Review Act, which establishes special procedures to undo agency rules. Murkowski has 40 co-sponsors, including three Democrats: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Environmentalists and liberal advocacy groups are also trying to link the Murkowski resolution to the spill that began in April when the BP PLC Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast, prompting the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The left-leaning advocacy group Americans United for Change will launch a 30-second television spot tomorrow accusing senators backing Murkowski of promoting more pollution in the wake of the massive Gulf oil spill.
The ad features images of oil spewing from the BP's rig and accuses Murkowski's backers of "working to gut the bipartisan Clean Air Act and give Big Oil a bailout."
The television ad blasts Senate Republicans for their financial ties to large oil companies. "Senate Republicans, who have taken nearly 20 million dollars from Big Oil, think our environment hasn't been polluted enough," the ad says.
The $40,000 ad will air through Thursday on MSNBC, FOX News and CNN in Washington, D.C., said Americans United for Change spokesman Jeremy Funk.
Funk said the group is preparing a separate ad aimed specifically at Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), after hearing that she was leaning toward backing Murkowski's measure. Collins is one of the three Republicans who has not signed on as a co-sponsor to the resolution.
A Collins spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
Americans United for Change was formed in 2005 by Democratic officials and labor interests and has run campaigns for a number of Democratic initiatives, including health care legislation, financial reform and climate legislation.
Waxman, Markey blast utility group over Murkowski support
Meanwhile, the authors of the House-passed energy and climate bill today reiterated concerns that the American Public Power Association is urging its members to support the Murkowski resolution without providing adequate information about its effects.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a second letter to the utility group, criticizing it for urging members to back the rule without mentioning that it would overturn EPA's greenhouse gas standards for automobiles.
"We do not believe APPA should urge its members to support a proposal that increases dependence on foreign oil without letting them know it would have that effect," the lawmakers wrote.
Mark Crisson, APPA's president and CEO, told the lawmakers in March that Congress, not EPA, should establish a federal regime to curb carbon emissions.
Crisson said that APPA does not oppose regulating carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles but that EPA's proposed tailpipe standards would automatically trigger stationary source regulations under the Clean Air Act, which he said must be avoided (Greenwire, March 4).
Click here to read the Waxman-Markey letter.