Advocates of congressional action on global warming had a “case of the Mondays” this week. Not to be outdone by his Republican colleagues, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced his own legislation to freeze federal efforts to curb carbon emissions.
If enacted, bill S.231 will not be as disastrous as Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) Defending Affordable Energy and Jobs Act, but it will nonetheless prevent (or suspend) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from stationary sources like power plants and refineries, for two years.
While Rockefeller has described the perils of global warming pollution: “Greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for our Earth or for her people, and we must take serious action to reduce them,” he has also led the charge amongst centrist and dirty energy funded Democrats to prevent the EPA from using clean air laws to protect public health and the environment from global warming pollution. Indeed, for his efforts, Rolling Stone named him no.9 on its list of 12 politicians and executives blocking progress on climate action.
Since 1999, he has received some $368,850 from coal and oil interests, and during the 2005-2010 period $130,300 from the Mining industry and $107,550 from Electric Utilities. He has also received close to $40,000 from Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly held coal company, and whose CEO Gregory Boyce ranked no.4 on the Rolling Stone list.
Rockefeller described his bill ensuring Congressional authority and protecting coal interests:
“We must give Congress enough time to consider a comprehensive energy bill to develop the clean coal technologies we need and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, protect West Virginia and improve our environment.”
“We can address emissions and secure a future for the U.S. coal industry, but we need the time to get it right and to move clean coal technology forward.”
Six centrist Democrats have joined Rockefeller as bill co-sponsors, including Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Tim Johnson (D-SD), both funded by global warming denialist company Koch Industries, as well as Jim Webb (D-VA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Manchin III (D-WV) and Kent Conrad (D-ND).
Environmental groups were quick to rail against the proposed legislation. Earthjustice released a statement comparing Rockefeller to Barrasso and the successes of the Clean Air Act:
“Sen. Rockefeller is standing in line with Sen. Barrasso as an advocate for the nation’s dirtiest industrial polluters, giving them a free pass to pollute our air without restraint. It is unacceptable that our elected leaders are pushing for legislation that prioritizes corporate polluter special interests and costs Americans clean air.”
“Defending the Clean Air Act means defending our economy, our health and our nation’s bottom line. This new legislation is simply a continued effort on the part of dirty energy companies who throw around money on Capitol Hill to get out of air pollution controls that protect our public health protections.”
Frank O’Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch discussed the implications of Rockefeller’s bill, introduced on the heels of Barrasso’s:
“One of the lessons of political history is that extremes help define the middle, and in this case, even though we believe that Rockefeller is extreme, Barrasso is ultra, ultra extreme.”
The Hill also cited a refinery industry lobbyist who said the idea behind the Barrasso measure is to:
“…create enough space for Rockefeller plus something else.”
“A two-year delay by itself does nothing except kick the can down the road. What is needed is for the agency’s ability to do certain things relative to GHG emissions to be checked for some time longer than that, or for the issue to be teed up for the 2012 elections.”
There are several certainties about the Rockefeller bill: it empowers climate skeptics in Congress, it sends the wrong message on global warming action, and it is a sign of things to come with more polluter-friendly legislation looming on the horizon.