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Murkowski EPA Resolution Goes to a Vote

Murkowski Legislature You may not know it, but the Senate took its first vote in quite a while yesterday on climate change issues. No, not one of the energy bills – Kerry-Lieberman’s or Lugar’s – but a resolution introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions.

Generally speaking, this is the kind of thing Congress doesn’t do, because the EPA belongs to the executive not legislative branch of government and its operations fall outside the purview of Congress (aside from oversight, of course). So to do this, Murkowski revived a rarely deployed provision of the 1996 Congressional Review Act called a resolution of disapproval that allows Congress to overturn administrative actions.

Here’s the complete text of the resolution:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (published at 74 Fed. Reg. 66496 (December 15, 2009)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

That’s the whole thing. During floor debate, the bit that created controversy was the phrase “and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases,” which several Senators, including John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) took to mean would deny the science behind global warming. Murkowski said this is not so:

My resolution does not affect the science behind the endangerment finding, but it will prevent the finding from being enforced through economy-wide regulations.

Her goal was quite different:

We're here today to debate a policy that works against both of those goals: the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to impose economy-wide climate regulations under the Clean Air Act. The sweeping powers being pursued by the EPA are the worst possible option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

And why does she think this? Because, in her view, it could be economically ruinous:

There is no question that our recovery is still fragile and very much in doubt. It is also clear that it will take quite some time for millions of unemployed Americans to find jobs and get back on their feet again. These tough facts should encourage us to focus on policies that create jobs and reduce our debt - and at the same time, should encourage us to guard against policies that fail in either or both of those areas.

So why keep up the suspense? How did the vote go?

The Senate voted 53-47 to reject an attempt by Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, to block the E.P.A. from imposing new limits on carbon emissions based on its 2009 finding that such gases from industry, vehicles and other sources represent a threat to human health and the environment.

And it was a bipartisan vote, though not as broad as Murkowski must have hoped. She got all Republicans and six Democrats, but fell four votes short. (President Obama had indicated he would veto the resolution if it passed, so Murkowski would have had a 67 vote mountain to climb to override it.)

There may be more action along these lines – non-binding resolutions to delay the implementation of EPA rules – or the Senate may just move right on to the energy bills. (The House passed its version last year.)

So – let’s wait and see what’s next.

Since we ran a picture of Sen. Murkowski earlier this week, we thought we’d have a lovely view of her state Alaska. But that was a bit of stretch – so consider this Lisa Murkowski week at Nuclear Notes.


Anonymous said…
We should get rid of all these federal regulatory agencies - EPA, NRC, FDA, etc. Govt shouldn't have this kind of power. Restore the Constitution! If NEI wants new nukes, then let it compete on the open market. No more govt subsidies. No loan guarruntees for anything - wind, solar, nuke, whatever. Make do on your freaking own.
Anonymous said…
BTW, while I am at it - get rid of Yucca, get rid of DOE, get rid of the Dept of Ed, SS, Medicare, Medicaid and all the govt nonsense that is bankrupting this country. Work for a living. No more govt handouts for anybody for any reason. Keep only DOD. Govt's only purpose is the common defense.
DocForesight said…
@Anon -- While I share some of your concerns, I think you take them to an extreme that places you in the "ignore this guy" category.

Government oversight is necessary but should be limited in its scope and the agencies created to enact those duties of oversight ought to have a high hurdle to clear before they can increase their power - particularly in areas that affect the entire economy.

In spite of the UN IPCC unraveling before our eyes, and the alarm of AGW diminishing, the EPA barrels ahead with more shackles for our energy production and use. Great.
Anonymous said…
The reality of climate change will not be decided by the effectiveness of political campaigns or taking votes on a weblog. The 'alarm of AGW' may be diminishing (only takes a cool winter in Europe), but the you can't fool mother nature. If you are under the age of 40 you will live to see the end of this argument. Hopefully mitigation efforts will suffice --- nuclear energy being by far the most important.
Anonymous said…
With respect, Doc Foresight, I simply do not trust the EPA or any other govt agency.

Take for example all the digital upgrades that other industries (airlines, medical, fossil fuel, etc.) have done over the decades. Yet NRC fears over common cause failure in software systems and the cyber security bug-a-boo continue to hamper existing plants from upgrading their I&C systems as analog technology replacements becomes more and more unobtainable. It's also a big concern for licesing new plants, whether AP1000, ESBWR or whatever. These fears contribute to cost overruns, schedule delays, etc., and contribute not one iota to safety.

And look at how the govt is constipating the fuel cycle with more and more regs on digital I&C for fuel production services and more and more roadblocks to a spent fuel repository.

And the NRC has already said that it would take decades to license advanced reactors not based on light water technology - like Rod Adams gas cooled reactor ideas, or even GEH PRISM, or any number of other ideas that could make spent fuel a non-issue.

No - govt has got to get out of the way. No more EPA. No more NRC. No more DOE. Laws should simply require insurance for all these energy ideas. Let the free market of insurance take care of the regs part. After the oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, nuclear is a winner hands down.

And no more govt funding. Stop the taxation and let the free market work. We haven't had a truly free market in decades and decades.
NRC supporter said…
Sure, let's get rid of the NRC. Then we can contract with the Russians to build cheap RBMK reactors without any containment structures, so we can save a lot of money and make "cheap" electricity.

Over 90% of what NRC wants utilities to do helps their bottom line anyhow, since it relates to maintaining high plant reliability and availability. The Neanderthal executives who viewed NRC as being the problem, and who kept the U.S. average plant capacity factor down at 65% in the 1980's, have all been fired or replaced.

On the new plants, the NRC is enforcing discipline upon vendors and utilities to actually have a complete design before they start construction, and to standardize designs across multiple reactor sites. Once again, the NRC is forcing vendors to do the right thing in spite of themselves, and in spite of how much complaining might happen.

"Anonymous" appears to like dangerous reactor designs and incompetent management, but fortunately advocates for this approach are now a tiny minority.
Anonymous said…
No loan guarruntees for anything - wind, solar, nuke, whatever.

What about publicly-funded education? Will that still be allowed in your free-market utopia? Someone will need to teach spelling, etc., to all those budding young Ayn Rands. If not, I guarruntee problums in thu fewchur.
Anonymous said…
@ 2nd anonymous:

Home schooling generally produces better results than public schools. I know a lady who homeschooled her five boys. They are smarter and more knowledgeable than their public school contemporaries who foten graduate from high school unable to balance a checkbook or read anything beyond a 5th grade level. Geez, public schools can't even keep kids safe (remember the Columbine shootings?), let alone educate them effectively.

@ NRC Supporter:

I don't advocate neanderthal management or dangerous reactors like the RBMK. And I don't trust govt to prevent another Chernobyl. After all, it was govt that allowed - even advocated - Chernobyl to be built, and it was govt that overlooked the safety problems with the Deep Horizons drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Since when should these politicians ever be trusted?

Let the free market work. The best govt is the least govt.
Anonymous said…
Sorry guys, I mispelled "often" as "foten" in my last post. I fat-fingered the keyboard too fast. -10 pts for me.

Obviously my homeschooling leaves something to be desired, eh?

Phil said…
Libertarians are funny. Their ideals are ridiculous and unrealistic and reflect a complete disconnect with how the real world works. Marxist Communists share the same insane unworkable utopian idealism. Only the semantics are different. Both philosophies are unworkable fantasies not grounded in reality.
JD said…

Perhaps you can reconcile these statements?

"it was govt that overlooked the safety problems with the Deep Horizons drilling in the Gulf of Mexico."

"Let the free market work. The best govt is the least govt."

You argue simultaneously that the government should have done more regulating in BP's case(meaning the free market wasn't going to prevent the spill), yet it should not interfere with free markets?

Either a company looking out for its best interests has the foresight to prevent problems like these (History Lesson from the past two months: clearly not always the case) or government intervention in free markets to some extent is necessary.

You simply can't get angry with the government for not doing what you think they shouldn't be doing in the first place.
NRC supporter said…
The reason that we have government regulation is because it beats having anarchy. Governments put stop signs at street corners to regulate traffic because stop signs tend to help reduce the frequency of traffic accidents. It's just one of the small forms of regulation that make things work better. Stop signs are not always the most efficient way to regulate traffic. Stop lights can be more efficient for busy intersections, but also more expensive. Regulation takes a constant process of adjustment, but frankly, it's worked pretty well here in the U.S. (unless you'd prefer to have lived 100 years ago).

Anonymous keeps sounding like he's actually serious about wanting to live in a completely regulation free world. His inability to work though the thought experiment of what that would actually imply is a bit of concern.
Anonymous said…

I can't "win" this discussion. All I can do is point out what govt has done (emasculate the US nuclear industry) and what govt is incapable of doing (stopping the oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico).

Look, if someone wanted to build a liquid metal or gas cooled reactor in the US, he can't because there are NO NRC regs on these designs. It'd take 20 + years to get such regs from our beaucracy (did I spell that correctly?). Yet other countries have such reactors. At the same time it was failure of govt regs which resulted in the oil well blowout at Deep Water Horizons. So nukes get over-regulated and oil and coal and gas got under-regulated. That favors fossil fuel over nukes, and that was done by both Dems and Repubs. Now look at what we have - an environmental disaster that'll likely have centuries of impact.

Nope, the best govt is the least govt. No politician can ever be trusted. Indeed, people need to be responsible for their own actions and no reliant from handouts from the public treasury. You want new nukes? Then pay for them out of your own money, and don't dump your waste to the environment. Same with oil, gas and coal. In a system like that nukes win hands down. AND govt doesn't get the power to regulate away a technology just because it isn't politically palatable to whoever is in office at the time.

Sorry guys. I have thought this through to its logical conclusion and I simply don't agree with you.

PS, no, I am NOT an Ayn Rand adherent. She was a militant atheist, a position with which I more than disagree. However, I am an adherent of the idea of individual freedom, responsibility and accountability.
Phil said…
OK Anon we get the point. You hate government and think they are always wrong and always incompetent.

If they are the NRC they are bad and wrong because they regulate too much.

If they are regulating the oil & gas industry they are bad and wrong because they don't regulate enough.

The government can do nothing right so the best thing to do is not have government do anything at all.

I'm chuckling.

I wonder, have you ever worked with government or as a government worker or contractor? In my experience the vast majority of government workers are very competent and are dedicated public servants. They do great work and I salute them all.

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