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Climate Progress reports  that the Murkowski amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that I wrote about last Tuesday was debated yesterday and ultimately denied a vote, effectively killing it. The amendment was designed to do an end run around the EPA finding that carbon dioxide emissions comprise a dangerous pollutant. It would have prohibited the EPA from regulating emissions from stationary (industrial) rather than mobile (automotive) sources.

In one sense, it is unfortunate that this piece of drek was not brought to a vote, since it would have given us a chance to see whether or not Claire McCaskill’s inclination toward coal industry interests is steep enough for them to push her completely over when it comes to the  American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) act.  The fact that legislators like  Murkowski can try to undercut the ability of the EPA to do its job underlines the importance of persuading weak Democrats like McCaskill to put their votes where their progressive claims in fund-raising letters suggest they should be.

The furror over the Murkowski amendment reinforces the importance of ACES since, as Climate Progress points out, EPA regulation alone cannot substitute for strong congressional action to slow climate change:

1. It would be difficult for the EPA to enact a CO2 cap and trade without congressional cooperation,” as John Podesta, former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff and now CEO of CAP, recently said.  The endangerment finding is far better suited to addressing new sources that it is existing sources.

2. A subsequent president could trivially stop or endlessly delay whatever actions Obama was able to start with the EPA.

3. If Congress rejects the binding targets of W-M, then we have no basis for negotiating with other countries as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process.  Indeed, we would have no basis for a deal with China.  A promise by Obama that he would try to use the limited authority EPA has to commit to a modest cut in CO2 by 2020 – and deep cuts in 2030 and 2050 – would be seen as meaningless.

Nor do McCaskill’s stated reasons for trying to weaken the ACES cap-and-trade provisions hold up. Her claims that the legislation would “unfairly punish” coal-dependent Missourians shows (willful?) ignorance of what the legislation contains.  ACES ensures that coal-dependent states are provided with billions in subsidies to ameliorate the impact of cap-and-trade and develop alternatives.   Neither does it help her cause when she channels her inner Republican and claims that the United States can’t be expected to do more than developing nations like China and India – particlarlly since both of those countries have announced plans to take relatively major steps to curb emissions (see here and here).

It is great that the Murkowski amendment failed, and those of you who phoned McCaskill and did all the good things you do deserve huge credit, but we cannot keep fighting this battle over and over. We need Claire McCaskill to do her job and provide real leadership on the vital issue of climate change.  We need her to unequivocally support ACES so that retrograde lawmakers like Murkowski cannot continue to use the legislative process to serve the interests of their wealthy, corporate clients to our detriment.  

ADDENDUM:  Note that per Fired Up Missouri! Kit Bond tried to horn in on Murkowski’s act.  Nor were Bond and Murkowski alone in offering amendments designed to weaken environmental protections according to the New York Times.  You see what I mean about Republican intransigence and why we need ACES?