AR-Sen: Lincoln Chooses Big Oil Over Environment, Pryor Obediently Follows

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    While I was out-of-pocket last week, Senate Joint Resolution 26 went down to defeat in the Senate by a score of 53 to 47.  Better known as “The Murkowski Amendment” after its author and sponsor, Sen. Lisa Murkowsi (Idiot-AK), SJR 26 was designed to

    Disapprov[e] a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (published at 74 Fed. Reg. 66496 (December 15, 2009)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

    That Blanche Lincoln, a co-sponsor of SJR 26, voted in favor of the Amendment is not surprising, and she was joined by fellow Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor. Only four other Senate Democrats joined with the Arkansas duo in voting for the Amendment: Ben Nelson (NE), Evan Bayh (IN), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Jay Rockefeller (WV).

    As SJR 26 was designed to defenestrate the EPA findings, you might be wondering what those EPA findings actually were. You can see the full text of the rule here, but a broad overview (with all emphases added by me) is after the jump.

    Pursuant to [Clean Air Act] section 202(a), the Administrator finds that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare. Specifically, the Administrator is defining the ‘‘air pollution’’ referred to in CAA section 202(a) to be the mix of six long-lived and directly-emitted greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). In this document, these six greenhouse gases are referred to as ‘‘well-mixed greenhouse gases’’ in this document[.]

    The Administrator has determined that the body of scientific evidence compellingly supports this finding. The major assessments by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program (USGCRP), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the National Research Council (NRC) serve as the primary scientific basis supporting the Administrator’s endangerment finding.

    The Administrator reached her determination by considering both observed and projected effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, their effect on climate, and the public health and welfare risks and impacts associated with such climate change.

    The Administrator’s assessment focused on public health and public welfare impacts within the United States. She also examined the evidence with respect to impacts in other world regions, and she concluded that these impacts strengthen the case for endangerment to public health and welfare because impacts in other world regions can in turn adversely affect the United States.

    The Administrator recognizes that human-induced climate change has the potential to be far-reaching and multidimensional, and in light of existing knowledge, that not all risks and potential impacts can be quantified or characterized with uniform metrics. There is variety not only in the nature and potential magnitude of risks and impacts, but also in our ability to characterize, quantify and project such impacts into the future. The Administrator is using her judgment, based on existing science, to weigh the threat for each of the identifiable risks, to weigh the potential benefits where relevant, and ultimately to assess whether these risks and effects, when viewed in total, endanger public health
    or welfare.

    The Administrator has considered how elevated concentrations of the well-mixed greenhouse gases and associated climate change affect public health by evaluating the risks associated with changes in air quality, increases in temperatures, changes in extreme weather events, increases in food- and water-borne pathogens, and changes in aeroallergens. The evidence concerning adverse air quality impacts provides strong and clear support for an endangerment finding. […]

    The impact on mortality and morbidity associated with increases in average temperatures, which increase the likelihood of heat waves, also provides support for a public health endangerment finding. […]

    The evidence concerning how human-induced climate change may alter extreme weather events also clearly supports a finding of endangerment, given the serious adverse impacts that can result from such events and the increase in risk, even if small, of the occurrence and intensity of events such as hurricanes and floods. […]

    Finally, the Administrator places weight on the fact that certain groups, including children, the elderly, and the poor, are most vulnerable to these climate-related health effects. The Administrator has considered how elevated concentrations of the well-mixed greenhouse gases and associated climate change affect public welfare by evaluating numerous and far-ranging risks to food production and agriculture, forestry, water resources, sea level rise and coastal areas, energy, infrastructure, and settlements, and ecosystems and wildlife. For each of these sectors, the evidence provides support for a finding of endangerment to public welfare. The evidence concerning adverse impacts in the areas of water resources and sea level rise and coastal areas provides the clearest and strongest support for an endangerment finding, both for current and future generations. Strong support is also found in the evidence concerning infrastructure and settlements, as well ecosystems and wildlife. Across the sectors, the potential serious adverse impacts of extreme events, such as wildfires, flooding, drought, and extreme weather conditions, provide strong support for such a finding.

    Water resources across large areas of the country are at serious risk from climate change, with effects on water supplies, water quality, and adverse effects from extreme events such as floods and droughts. Even areas of the country where an increase in water flow is projected could face water resource problems from the supply and water quality problems associated with temperature increases and precipitation variability, as well as the increased risk of serious adverse effects from extreme events, such as floods and drought. The severity of risks and impacts is likely to increase over time with accumulating greenhouse gas concentrations and associated temperature increases and precipitation changes.

    Overall, the evidence on risk of adverse impacts for coastal areas provides clear support for a finding that greenhouse gas air pollution endangers the welfare of current and future generations. The most serious potential adverse effects are the increased risk of storm surge and flooding in coastal areas from sea level rise and more intense storms. Observed sea level rise is already increasing the risk of storm surge and flooding in some coastal areas. […]

    Strong support for an endangerment finding is also found in the evidence concerning energy, infrastructure, and settlements, as well ecosystems and wildlife. While the impacts on net energy demand may be viewed as generally neutral for purposes of making an endangerment determination, climate change is expected to result in an increase in electricity production, especially supply for peak demand. This may be exacerbated by the potential for adverse impacts from climate change on hydropower resources as well as the potential risk of serious adverse effects on energy infrastructure from extreme events. Changes in extreme weather events threaten energy, transportation, and water resource infrastructure.

    Vulnerabilities of industry, infrastructure, and settlements to climate change are generally greater in high-risk locations, particularly coastal and riverine areas, and areas whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources. […] Over the 21st century, changes in climate will cause some species to shift north and to higher elevations and fundamentally rearrange U.S. ecosystems. Differential capacities for range shifts and constraints from development, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and broken ecological connections will likely alter ecosystem structure, function, and services, leading to predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem goods and services.

    There is a potential for a net benefit in the near term for certain crops, but there is significant uncertainty about whether this benefit will be achieved given the various potential adverse impacts of climate change on crop yield, such as the increasing risk of extreme weather events. Other aspects of this sector may be adversely affected by climate change, including livestock management and irrigation requirements, and there is a risk of adverse effect on a large segment of the total crop market. For the near term, the concern over the potential for adverse effects in certain parts of the agriculture sector appears generally comparable to the potential for benefits for certain crops. However, the body of evidence points towards increasing risk of net adverse impacts on U.S. food production and agriculture over time, with the potential for significant disruptions and crop failure in the future.

    […] Looking across all of the sectors discussed above, the evidence provides compelling support for finding that greenhouse gas air pollution endangers the public welfare of both current and future generations. The risk and the severity of adverse impacts on public welfare are expected to increase over time.

    The Administrator also finds that emissions of well-mixed greenhouse gases from the transportation sources covered under CAA section 202(a) contribute to the total greenhouse gas air pollution, and thus to the climate change problem, which is reasonably anticipated to endanger public health and welfare. […]

    In order to determine if emissions of the well-mixed greenhouse gases from CAA section 202(a) source categories contribute to the air pollution that endangers public health and welfare, the Administrator compared the emissions from these CAA section 202(a) source categories to total global and total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, finding that these source categories are responsible for about 4 percent of total global well-mixed greenhouse gas emissions and just over 23 percent of total U.S. well-mixed greenhouse gas emissions. […] As the Supreme Court noted, ‘‘[j]udged by any standard, U.S. motor-vehicle emissions make a meaningful contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations and hence, * * * to global warming.’’ Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 525 (2007).

    The Administrator’s findings are in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. That case involved a 1999 petition submitted by the International Center for Technology Assessment and 18 other environmental and renewable energy industry organizations requesting that EPA issue standards under CAA section 202(a) for the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons from new motor vehicles and engines. The Administrator’s findings are in response to this petition and are for purposes of CAA section 202(a).

    That’s right, both Arkansas Senators voted for a resolution that would, in effect, disagree with findings based on scads of scientific evidence. Oh, but Ms. Lincoln — the top recipient of campaign contributions from gas and big oil over the last two years, remember — claims that her vote had nothing to do with whether the science was legit; hers was entirely a matter of proper procedure, you see.

    The sponsor of the resolution, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of oil-rich Alaska, stressed that her intent was to protect the authority of Congress, not the interests of the oil industry. “It should be up to us to set the policy of this country, not unelected bureaucrats within an agency.”

    Her Democratic allies used similar arguments. “The regulatory approach is the wrong way to promote renewable energy and clean energy jobs in Arkansas and the rest of the country,” said Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Murkowski too said Congress should be working harder to come up with an energy bill.

    Ah, I see. Lincoln didn’t want the EPA to get in the way of her efforts to pass clean energy legislation in the Senate. Efforts such as, say, siding with nine other Democrats to help kill the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act in 2008? (Her reasoning, along with the other nine Senators, was more or less “because the bill might not work.” You know what else might not work? Embracing the status quo like a fat kid holding on to the last Twinkie.)

    Hmm … maybe instead she was referring to her efforts in trying to give tax breaks for renewable energy development. I mean, that was good, right? Oh, wait…that was only in conjunction with expanded use of offshore drilling?

    Supporting the Murkowski Amendment because it might hinder her efforts to pass environmental legislation is amazingly ironic coming from someone who the League of Conservation Voters listed among their “Dirty Dozen” lawmakers. Lincoln can try to spin her vote as a procedural one all she wants; only an idiot would believe her excuses on this. The fact is that she supported the Amendment for the same reason Murkowski did — because big oil will be adversely impacted by the EPA rule and Lincoln knows better than to bite the hand that feeds her. Besides, at this point, no one expected any different from oil and gas’s favorite lapdog. It’s just a shame that Senator Pryor chose to back Lincoln rather than choosing to protect Arkansans.