The drama comes to a boil in Congress this week
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
Today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson came out swinging in EPA's battle to defend its December 2009 endangerment finding against the likes of Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Alaska's oil- and coal-embedded senator, and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Congress' most notorious climate change denier.
The showdown took place in Jackson's testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on EPA's 2011 budget proposal, which includes funds—chump change in relation to the agency's overall budget—to implement the endangerment finding.
In her opening remarks at today's hearing, EPW committee chair Barbara Boxer drove home just how behind the United States is on climate change legislation. "While the whole world is going green, the one place we can't seem to address climate change legislation is the Senate."
Even more potent were Bernie Sanders' comments on the validity of the science used to inform the EPA finding, a 200-page synthesis of major scientific assessments by all the leading U.S. scientific agencies:
I find it incredible, I really do, that in the year 2010, on this committee, people are saying there is a doubt about global warming. There is no doubt about global warming. The scientific community is almost overwhelmingly united in saying that global warming is real ... It is dangerous to reject science.
Then he got serious and cut directly to the heart of the issue, calling out opponents of the finding for being in bed with special interests:
If you want to protect the oil interests, get up there and say you are protecting oil interests. If you want to protect coal, protect coal; that's not a problem. We understand that a lot of campaign contributions are coming to you, fine. But let's not argue about what the overwhelming majority of scientists in this country agree on. And let us move forward to a clean-energy future.
And while Inhofe continued to make his predictable noise about climate change today, Murkowski still remains the loudest voice behind efforts tear down the finding and cut the agency off at its knees in its attempt to make good on the Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court ruling (which determined that greenhouses gases should and need to be regulated under the Clean Air Act—read more about Earthjustice's victory and role in this landmark case).
Murkowski's efforts to nullify the endangerment finding and undermine the EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Air Act caught national attention last month when The Washington Post uncovered her allegiances to big-polluter industries, two of whose lobbyists were identified as ghost authors in her official Senate protest of the EPA finding. Read more about the WaPo's investigation here and here.
And as data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reveals, Murkowski is not only the Senate's leading opponent of the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases but also the Congress's top recipient of campaign funds from electric utilities. Coincidence? You'd have to be crazy to think so.
Next in this unfolding drama is Jackson's testimony tomorrow before the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. Expect Republican opponents to grill Jackson, as they did today. And as she did in today's testimony and in the letter she wrote yesterday to several coal-state senators who had questions about the finding, expect her to come out strong and yet again give Congress a slew of compelling reasons (and then some more) to rally against Murkowski's obstructionist efforts when it comes to a vote in March.
And then what? Keep your eye out for the Murkowski Dirty Air Act vote when it comes to the Senate (a date TBD in March; we'll keep you informed on the play-by-play and vote date), and if you want to really make a difference yourself, take just one minute now to tell your Senator to oppose Murkowski's attacks and support the Clean Air Act. If enough of us speak up, they will hear us, and they will have no choice but to act in the best interest of this country and its future.