Thursday, January 14, 2010

Environmental Protection Agency: Senator trying to take key agency out of the loop

First, let's take a moment to give thought to those impacted by the earthquake in Haiti. Needless to say, international relief agencies need your support; the American Red Cross and International Red Cross are two of the leading organizations. Give what you can.

And let's not be distracted by comments from pompous religious zealots who wish to claim that this natural disaster is the fault of the Haitian people consorting with the devil. Small minds deserve small attention.

But back on the environment front, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has proposed legislation -
actually an amendment to be tacked on a government spending bill - that would deprive the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. The crux of the issue has to do more with politics than with a difference in environmental opinion. The EPA is an executive branch agency and there are those who would prefer to see greenhouse emissions regulation originate from Congress - a decidedly less scientific body greatly influenced by outside interests opposed to decisive action to curb CO2 emissions.

The EPA's December declaration that pollution from greenhouse gas emissions endangers public health and that the agency would take action under the Clean Air Act met with support from conservation and environmental groups and disdain from lobbyists and supporters of fossil fuel energy industries. But this recent announcement was not solely on the EPA's initiative; it was the result of a Supreme Court ruling some three years ago. As reported by the Miami Herald:

The EPA's move to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions is part of its compliance with a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger the country's health and welfare. If the agency found that such emissions are indeed dangerous -- which it did -- the court instructed the EPA to address the problem."

The wheels of Congress and the EPA, both, turn slowly and it will be years before one can expect regulations to take effect. But action must be taken now if the scientific-based input from the EPA is to be considered and not shut out of the discussion. The Center for Biological Diversity has started a drive to send letters to all members of Congress to oppose the Murkowski amendment. If you would like to add your voice, click here.

We must not forget that there are strong forces at work in opposition of regulating greenhouse gas emissions. There are huge economic interests from industries who have operated on a centuries-old business model, that of utilizing fossil fuels (oil and coal), and are not prepared to accept the fact that that business model is not only a finite model, but that the inevitable change to cleaner alternative energies must start now in earnest.

If you would like to get a perspective from the "liberal, radical, tree-hugger" side of the aisle, there are interesting articles in the latest issue of Rolling Stone (Issue 1096). One article, by contributing editor Jeff Goodell, details the extent of the lobbying campaigns by the oil and coal industries; while writer Tim Dickinson follows up with an article listing 17 leading businesspersons and politicians and others who are pushing hard to derail efforts to curb global warming. It's always good to know who are policymakers are either up against or being influenced by.

Read the Miami Herald article on Sen, Lisa Murkowski.
Join The Center for Biological Diversity's
letter campaign.
Read about climate change opposition in Rolling Stone.

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