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Senate: Put Aside Partisan Politics, Protect the American People

Yesterday the White House took a firm stand against an effort to undermine the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, reverse a Supreme Court decision, and block the federal fuel efficiency standards that were finalized this past spring, which will reduce the nation's consumption of oil by at least 455 million barrels.
 
The effort at hand is a seldom-used congressional "Resolution of Disapproval" by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), on the Senate floor for a vote tomorrow, June 10. The resolution, which was influenced by oil- and polluter-industry lobbyists, is at the center of a fury of political positioning and partisan politicking. Its purpose is to block the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, authorized by the Clean Air Act and reaffirmed by the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision.
 
In an official statement yesterday, the White House threatened to veto the resolution if it is passed by the Senate tomorrow. Meanwhile, Sen. Murkowski and her Republican allies held a press conference to solicit public attention and support for this vote. The rest of the Senate and, more importantly, the public, should see through their smoke-and-mirrors routine. After all, the connection between reducing our national dependence on oil and controlling fossil fuel pollution are two sides of the same coin.

The costs of our dependence on oil are on tragic display in the Gulf of Mexico, a man-made disaster of historic proportions. Eleven lives were lost. Oil continues to spill into the Gulf at a rate never seen before in U.S. history. The monetary costs of the spill are climbing into the double-digit billions, and the environmental and regional costs are expected to endure for decades.

And the costs of our dependence on coal are not to be ignored. Just over two months ago, 29 lives were lost in a horrible coal mine explosion in West Virginia. As the families and communities in West Virginia are grieving for their lost loves ones, Appalachian mountains are being leveled by explosives for coal, ecosystems are being destroyed, drinking water supplies are being contaminated, and the health of communities is suffering. Several scientific-based studies show the human health costs far outweigh the economic gains of coal mining.
 
These events are a grim reminder of the true price we pay for failing to move our nation toward less destructive energy sources, and worse, for passing resolutions such as Murkowski's that reverse progress, thereby increasing our dependence on dirty and destructive fossil fuels.
 
The problem here is deeply more profound than the price of these disasters, already hard enough to cope with. Every day that the Senate fails to address the underlying problem of our nation's dependence on filthy fossil fuels, we perpetuate the destruction caused by compounding pollution. We are still woefully reliant on coal and foreign oil.
 
Our wasteful fossil fuel addiction emits harmful pollutants into our air and water daily. These are silent killers, and they don't make the front page of the paper.
 
While Sen. Murkowski says that she is in favor of addressing our nation's climate and energy future in Senate legislation, she and her allies shoot these efforts down daily. Instead of focusing on climate and energy solutions, they spend their time shielding big polluters from accountability.
 
The real issue at hand is that Murkowski and her allies are in the pockets of polluter industry lobbyists and are putting special interest money over public interest.
 
We also have seen all too clearly what happens when we deregulate, when we fail to use the tools and laws we have to regulate, or when we set aside our environmental laws for industry gain. In the face of such high costs due to our reliance on fossil fuels and a failure to pass a clean energy and climate bill, the Senate should take a stand against Senator Murkowski's attempt to dispose of our only existing option to promote clean energy and combat climate change.
 
And yes, the Senate should address energy and climate change in a strong and comprehensive bill immediately. But the costs of dirty energy are too high for our nation to throw away regulations. The EPA's ability to regulate the worst polluters is a necessary additional safeguard against the economic and environmental costs of fossil fuels.
 
In an attempt to distract the public and the media from this fact, Murkowski and her allies are using fear and promoting untruths. Their constant refrain has been that the EPA will begin to regulate hot dog stands and school libraries, and that every family and small business in America will suffer. This plainly is not true. The EPA has expressly made clear that it will be using the Clean Air Act to go after only the nation's biggest polluters, such as power plants and refineries.
 
What could be more irresponsible than a bid to deregulate the biggest fossil fuel polluters in the midst of the Gulf crisis? We cannot allow this to be reduced to yet another highly politicized partisan battle. Tomorrow, when our senators vote on the resolution, we need them to rise above the political and partisan din and look at the plain truth: This resolution is bad for our country's health, future, economy, and well-being.

Tell your senators to vote against this resolution and for the health, well-being, and future of the American people.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.