‘Dirty Air’ loses in U.S. Senate

By:  Joel Connelly, SeattlePI.com
Source: Seattle PI


The U.S. Senate on Wednesday turned back efforts to block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, in a vote that showed stark partisan divisions on environmental protection.

By a 50-50 vote — 60 votes were needed to pass — it rejected a rider sponsored by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that would have blocked Environmental Protection Agency climate rules.

The rider, cosponsored with climate change denier Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, would have vetoed the EPA scientific finding that climate change is a threat to public health.

The rider was supported by 46 of the Senate’s 47 Republicans:  A single GOP lawmaker, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against it.  Forty-nine of 53 Democrats voted to sustain the EPA’s authority.

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, D-Wash., delivered Senate floor speeches defending the EPA, arguing that limiting air pollution and boosting clean energy promote both growth and public health.

“Passing an anti-EPA amendment would hurt our economy,” Cantwell said.  “That’s certainly the case with the McConnell-Inhofe amendment. It would overturn hard-won gains from the 2007 Energy Bill that put (fuel efficiency) standards in place at a higher level . . .

“This was passed on a bipartisan basis and it was very important in helping consumers ave money and car buyers as much as $3,000 over the life of a car, because we have made them more fuel efficient.”

By limiting toxic emissions, argued Cantwell, “the Clean Air Act will cumulatively save 4.2 million lives by 2020.”  She defined clean air votes as “the good versus the special interest.”

Murray argued that companies developing new energy sources, and working to make homes and buildings more efficient, need a playing field with set rules.

Amendments eviscerating the Clean Air Act “would cause massive uncertainty and upheaval for the clean-energy companies like the McKinstry Company in Washington state that are trying to create jobs and grow the clean energy economy,” Murray argued.

“Other countries, like China and India, are pouring resources into investments that are creating jobs and building infrastructure,” she added. “And we need to make sure we position ourselves to compete and win in this critical sector.”

The Senate rejected four different efforts to limit EPA authority, the sweeping McConnell-Inhofe measure and three more limited amendments offered by auto and coal state Democrats.

“Senate Democratic leadership was able to siphon votes off that sweeping amendment by allowing votes on less aggressive alternatives,” said the Politico website.

“For EPA’s defenders, the vote sends a strong signal that the Senate won’t endorse efforts to roll back the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

“But the agency’s critics walk away with a powerful talking point:  A majority of Senate lawmakers voted in some way to block the EPA, whether permanently or for a couple of years.”