Senator Rockefeller Wants to Give Global Warming Polluters a Free Pass

In the coming weeks, Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia is expected to push for a vote on his bill to stop the EPA from developing and issuing standards to reduce global warming pollution for at least two years. The Senate already shot down a similar attack on the Clean Air Act last month, yet Senator Rockefeller is trying again.

Senator Rockefeller’s measure would take away the only tool we have right now to hold polluters accountable for global warming emissions – and replace it with nothing.

Simply put, it is a gift to dirty industries at a time when Americans have had enough of polluters who don’t clean up their mess.

Indeed, for the duration of Senator Rockefeller’s measure, the EPA would be prohibited even from drafting pollution limits, analyzing them, and assessing their economic impacts. It would be under a full stop-work order.

Stop work? On one of the biggest threats to our environment, economy, and national security?

Surely it’s time to move ahead with solving this crisis, not freeze in the face of it. Senator Rockefeller would have us delay America’s investment in clean energy technologies and put us even farther behind in the race to dominate one of the biggest markets of the 21st century.

Interestingly, Senator Rockefeller is no climate denier. Last year, he said: “The cost of inaction will be much worse than the impact on the economy of action.  More importantly, action on climate change will produce new jobs and make our economy stronger.”

He agrees that America must confront the threat of global warming, but he thinks Congress should shoulder that responsibility, not the EPA.

That’s sounds sensible enough until you learn that Sen. Rockefeller says he won’t vote for a climate bill this summer and thinks Congress should delay considering any such bill for some time to come. If Senator Rockefeller gets his way—no comprehensive climate bill and no EPA ability to regulate carbon—polluters will get a free pass for years to come. 

Who does Sen. Rockefeller think will protect Americans from the dangers of global warming pollution if the government is left with no tools to do so?

It is possible that the Senate will pass a so-called utility-only bill—a bill that puts a cap on carbon emissions from power plants but no one else. If Rockefeller’s measure passes as well, that means other major polluters like oil refineries and chemical plants will get two free-to-pollute cards: they will be exempt from the cap, and they will be exempt from EPA rules.

And those cards may be good for some time. Rockefeller claims his measure would be temporary—just two years—but once you put such a delay in place, it could easily be extended in the future, which would result in a de facto repeal of the Supreme Court ruling that the EPA must regulate global warming pollution.

All the EPA rules would do is make sure factories use the best affordable technology that’s available to limit carbon pollution. Why would we want them to do less?

And why would we want the EPA to stop trying to tackle one of the biggest pollution problems of our time? Senator Rockefeller’s stop-work order is more like stop thinking about the crisis of global warming.

Surely we can respond to such this challenge with resolve and ingenuity.  The paralysis Senator Rockefeller proposes is no answer.