Senator Murkowski: Don’t Create a Dirty Air Act, Protect Alaska from Global Warming Instead

Senator Lisa Murkowski says she is against just about every carbon-capping bill on the table right now. That is her prerogative, despite the fact that the Alaskan people she represents are suffering more than any other Americans from global warming.

Still, casting a “no” vote doesn’t seem to be sufficient for Murkowski. She is so eager to obstruct climate solutions that she is expected to introduce an amendment next week that would prevent the EPA from regulating global warming pollution.

It is not clear exactly what shape her amendment will take. After reports on Monday that it was drafted by lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry, it is possible Murkowski will tinker with her approach.

But her underlying strategy remains the same: she plans to attack the Clean Air Act--a piece of legislation that has stood strong for forty years on both sides of the partisan divide and throughout administrations as varied as Nixon’s and Clinton’s, Reagan’s and Obama’s.

The job of the Clean Air Act is to protect us from pollutants that scientific evidence tells us are dangerous. Thanks to the law, we have been breathing safer air, reduced the number of children rushing to the ER with asthma attacks, and slashed the death rate from respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that global warming pollutants must be covered by the Clean Air Act, and it ordered the EPA to begin regulating it. That is why EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has begun taking steps to ensure that new cars and trucks and the largest power plants and factories become as clean as current technology allows--rather than continuing to make the climate problem worse.

But Murkowski seems to prefer a Dirty Air Act instead. She doesn’t deny that climate change exists. She doesn’t even attack the science used to include global warming pollution in the Clean Air Act.

Instead, she claims that she doesn’t want the EPA to do a job that Congress should do. She is willing to strip the authority of the Clean Air Act and let big polluters off the hook simply because she says that legislation--not regulation--is the best way to address climate change.

That sounds reasonable enough until you remember that Murkowski has opposed every piece of climate legislation thus far.

Murkowski’s seemingly principled position is really just a political stunt, an attempt to put roadblocks smack in the middle of the only two paths we have for confronting climate change and building a cleaner energy future.

Nonetheless, I haven’t given up on Senator Murkowski just yet. I have read her statements about climate ravages in Alaska (you can see some on Climate Progress). She describes how Native villagers are struggling with subsistence hunting because the ice is coming later and melting earlier. And she explains that Alaska has lost 3 million acres of forest--roughly the size of Connecticut--to devastating infestation of the spruce bark beetle brought on by warmer weather.

Murkowski knows that her state a high paying the price for climate change--despite the fact that it is responsible for less than 1 percent of America’s emissions.

If the senator truly intends to represent Alaskans, she will separate herself from her political posturing and align herself instead with the effort to solve climate change.

It is time for Murkowski to come home, face what is happening to her state, and be a part fixing it.

In the meantime, the rest of us can tell our senators that we do not support Murkowski’s attempt to gut the Clean Air Act and block global warming solutions. Click here to urge them to oppose these efforts.