Dirty Air Act Would Hurt Efforts to Stop Climate Change

Just call them Murkowski’s Mafia. This Thursday Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), backed by a cadre of Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate, will introduce a Resolution of Disapproval which if passed would curtail US ability to combat climate change. Known to many as the “Dirty Air Act,” Murkowski’s resolution would veto the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases as harmful pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

It’s being introduced at a time when the effects of climate change and US dependence on fossil fuels are being felt perhaps more than ever before. The Dirty Air Act must be treated for what it is: a dangerous assault on US ability to combat global warming.

Murkowski has been attempting to gain traction for her Dirty Air Act since last fall. The resolution was written with the help of one-time Bush administration officials and fossil fuel industry lobbyists—it’s a bill by and for polluters. One individual who worked with Murkowski on the resoluiton, former Bush bureaucrat Jeffery Holmstead, now lobbies for polluters like Arch Coal and Duke Energy. According to Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, Holmstead’s firm and clients have contributed over $126,500 to Murkowski’s political campaigns since 2004.

Indeed, Murkowski is the Senate’s biggest receiver of campaign contributions from the utilities industry, and has proved herself a staunch ally of Big Oil and Big Coal. This spring, when not pushing her Dirty Air Act, she’s been spending her time blocking initiatives to make oil companies pay for the full clean-up costs of spills like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. When such a bought-and-paid-for senator stands up and says the EPA shouldn’t protect Americans from the effects of climate change, you might think few people would even listen. Yet the Dirty Air Act has drawn alarming support, and there’s a very real danger the Senate could pass it.

If Murkowski and her allies succeed, it will be a heavy blow to efforts to pass a comprehensive climate bill this year. The Dirty Air Act does not automatically become law once it clears the Senate; to do that it would need to pass through the House of Representatives and the desk of President Obama. Yet Senate passage would have a chilling effect on potential climate legislation, and send a signal that lawmakers aren’t ready to stand up to polluters. Murkowski’s Mafia clearly knows this. It’s likely no coincidence they’re making a major push for their resolution at the very time when the odds of passing a climate bill are finally looking up.

Senate approval of the Dirty Air Act could be disastrous. Yet the flip side is that in facing down Murkowski’s Mafia, senators can show they’re serious about cutting down carbon emissions and protecting their constituents from climate change. By defeating the Dirty Air Act, the US Senate can signal it intends to take the effects of climate change seriously, and lay the groundwork for passing a comprehensive climate bill.

On Thursday, every US senator has a choice to make: side with public health and ordinary Americans, or with the fossil fuel industries and oil barons pushing Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act. You can make your voice heard by contacting your own senators, and telling them how you want to be represented. It’s time to seize this opportunity and send the Dirty Air Act down in flames.

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