Opinion: Fossil fuel dinosaurs try to block new EPA rules

CO2: Up, up and away ...

Grassroots activists help convince Senate to drop anti-environmental bills

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — An attempt by old-school politicians to block EPA greenhouse gas regulations failed in the U.S. Senate last week  in part after a flood of e-mail from voters and constituents responding to an online appeal from the Environmental Defense Fund.

In a Dec. 17 press release, the group said at least 10,000 people contacted their elected representatives to demand that the Senate drop a bill that would have undercut the EPA. authority to control carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases. The agency ruled last year that greenhouse gases pose a threat to the welfare of Americans, and began developing regulations based on that endangerment finding. As soon as next month, power plants and other big polluters will have to get permits for emitting greenhouse gases.

While Congress can’t find the political will to act on global warming in a meaningful way, at least some federal lawmakers are unwilling to let the EPA do the job — and guess who is leading the charge? It’s not that hard — just follow the trail of oil  and coal, and the money associated with those industries.

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski was the original sponsor of a measure that would effectively veto the EPA’s endangerment finding, and West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller, apparently representing the interests of coal companies rather than the American people, tried to tweak the bill and create a temporary two-year time out on EPA regs.

Here’s how Rockefeller tried to justify his legislation without looking like he’s totally in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry:

“If we want to encourage companies to invest in new technologies and create jobs, then we need a system that gives major employers the framework to do so and to succeed. I am concerned that the EPA has not provided these employers enough time to process and understand rules that they will be required to comply with in just two months time. In fact, it is still unclear what exactly will be required to receive a greenhouse gas air permit next year, as each state will be making case-by-case decisions. Such an unstable regulatory environment prevents companies from making long range investment decisions that will put West Virginians back to work. That is why the Senate needs to pass my legislation to suspend EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.”

And why is it that that the fossil fuel industry only has two months time? Because instead of starting to work with the EPA to develop new technologies when the agency made its decision, it decided to sue the EPA instead, hoping to block new regulations; and because it is still relying on its political influence with Congress, based in incredible amounts of lobbying dollars being spent every month to prop up an unsustainable economic and environmental model.

Obama is fighting for the EPA’s right to control greenhouse gases, knowing that it’s his best bet for delivering on campaign promises that are important to the environmental community, and he’s been getting some help from EPA administrator Lisa Jackson,  who wasn’t afraid to step into the fray. In an op-ed piece for the Huffington Post, Jackson said Murkowski’s measure is nothing more than a boon for Big Oil and a step backward to increasing the country’d dangerous addiction to oil.

Rockefeller said he’ll try to re-introduce his bill in the new Congress.

Meanwhile, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 continue to rise every day, and the Earth keeps getting warmer.


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