Quotes From the Senate Floor: Debate on EPA Resolution of Disapproval

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Publication date: 
14 June 2010

On June 10 the Senate voted down a joint resolution (S. J. Res. 26) to vacate EPA findings that provide a path towards regulation of greenhouse gases as detailed in FYI #62.

The 47-53 vote drew six Democrats—Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and John Rockefeller (D-WV)—to the Republican side of the aisle. In contrast, no Republicans voted against the joint resolution. Those hoping to delay the EPA’s enforcement of its findings will look towards Sen. Rockefeller’s Stationary Source Regulations Delay Act (S. 3072) that holds off EPA regulation for two years.

Excerpts from Thursday’s debate follow:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

“We oppose the EPA's regulations because of their costs, most definitely. But, unfortunately, that seems to be precisely why some Senators have gone out front to support them, hoping these economic costs will be so onerous that it will force us here in the Congress, here in the Senate, to adopt legislation we otherwise wouldn't move to do.”

“Under the Clean Air Act, if you emit more than 100 or 250 tons of a pollutant each year, you must acquire a Federal air permit. These relatively low limits make sense for conventional air pollutants that are emitted in small quantities, but they become wildly problematic when dealing with a substance emitted in huge volumes through nearly every form of commerce, such as carbon dioxide is.”

“We need to be growing our economy not paralyzing it. Everything we do right now within this body should be focused on how we grow our economy, how we grow the jobs from Maine to Alaska and points in between. We know the national unemployment rate remains at almost 10 percent. Private sector job growth is anemic. Yet as millions of Americans are doing everything they can just to find work, bureaucrats in Washington, DC, are contemplating regulations that would destroy these opportunities.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

“The Murkowski resolution we are considering today would overturn the endangerment finding developed by scientists and health experts in both the Bush and Obama administrations that too much carbon pollution in the air is dangerous--dangerous for our families, dangerous for our environment. Imagine, 100 Senators--not scientists, not health experts--deciding what pollutant is dangerous and what pollutant is not. Personally, I believe it is ridiculous for politicians, elected Senators, to make this scientific decision. It is not our expertise; it is not our purview.”

“We need to work together to make sure we do it right. But we need to move, move toward a clean energy economy, and the good jobs that come with it. This will set us back on purpose. On purpose. Because the very people who are bringing you this have not come forward with any bill to move us away from these old energies. They are stopping us from doing it. They admit it.”

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AK)

“I rise today in support of S.J. Res. 26, Senator Murkowski's resolution of disapproval.”

“These critics would like the public to believe that opposing EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is somehow related to the oil spill. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I do not know, in my recent election if people had listened to what was on the TV, they would have thought I single-handedly was responsible for what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. This is not where we solve that problem.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)

“Seven years ago this month, I made a speech and I said the notion that anthropogenic gases, that CO2 causes catastrophic global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

“I can't find one assertion that has now not been refuted: melt Himalayan glaciers by 2035, not true; endanger 40 percent of the Amazon rain forests, not true; melt mountain ice in the Alps, Andes, and Africa, not true; deplete water resources for 4.5 billion people by 2085, totally refuted; slash crop production by 50 percent in North Africa by 2020; 55 percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level.”

“This administration has tried ever since they came in to pass cap-and-trade. A cap-and-trade, logically, you would say: Well, if you want to cut down on greenhouse gases, why not put a tax on CO2? The reason they don't do that is because then people would know what it is costing them.”

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)

“I am hoping that the Senate supports S.J. Res. 26, removes the gun from its head and gets on with the business of debating a sound energy policy. I suggest that the best way we can start to do this is by looking at the bipartisan bill--the Bingaman bill--which came out of the Energy Committee. That is where we should start if we want to be constructive in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

“The EPA went to the scientists across America and asked them the basic question: Do greenhouse gas emissions endanger life and the planet on which we live? After months and thousands of comments and 380,000 scientific comments, they concluded that it does.”

“There is bipartisan opposition to the Murkowski resolution. It turns out those who headed the EPA under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan all oppose the Murkowski resolution.”

“The proponents of the resolution say: Congress has to act on this…. Every significant bill that has come to this floor has been filibustered time and time again. To suggest disingenuously that we will pass this resolution and get on to a climate change bill, pass it within several weeks or months is, I think, not borne out by the evidence of what we have seen in this Chamber over the last several months.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

“Let's look at the science. Let's look at the leading scientists all over the world. Scientists at the following world-renowned American institutions have all found that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. Here they are: NASA, National Science Foundation, Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Health and Human Services, State, Commerce, the Smithsonian Institute, the National Academies of Science, the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

“Though Congress may not have specifically anticipated greenhouse gas emissions when the Clean Air Act was originally passed, the same can be said of many pollutants. Indeed, when the 1970 law passed, only five pollutants were initially listed. Since then, dozens of additional pollutants have been listed and the air we breathe is better for it. This is not an example of an agency overreaching, it is the way the Clean Air Act was designed to work.”

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)

“Today I rise to speak in support of the bipartisan resolution of disapproval offered by my colleague and friend, Senator Murkowski from Alaska, and out of concern as well about a serious, harmful impact on Nebraska's economy that could result if the Environmental Protection Agency moves ahead with its plans to regulate carbon emissions in our country.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

“Let me be clear because there are diverse views on this issue in this Chamber. I believe global climate change and the development of alternatives to fossil fuels are significant and urgent priorities for our country. We must meet these economic and environmental challenges. The scientific evidence demonstrates the human contribution to climate change, and we must act to mitigate that impact. But we must proceed with care, and we should not allow the Federal EPA to charge ahead on a problem that affects every aspect of our already fragile economy. The preliminary steps the EPA has taken, including its decision to revisit the carbon neutrality of biomass, undermine my confidence in having the EPA proceed. It is Congress's job, not the EPA's, to decide how best to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)

“I rise today in somewhat regrettable opposition to the resolution offered by the Senior Senator from Alaska.”

“I have concluded that an alternative, equally effective mechanism exists to ensure that Congress--and not unelected Federal officials--can formulate our policies on climate change and energy legislation. Senator Rockefeller has proposed legislation to suspend EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources for 2 years. I am a cosponsor of Senator Rockefeller's bill. His approach would give Congress the time it needs to address our legitimate concerns with climate change, and not disrupt or reverse the important progress that has been made on motor vehicle fuel and emission standards. I note that, to her credit, this was an approach that the senior Senator from Alaska originally proposed, and I am hopeful that we can take this approach in the future.
“I am also pleased that in my discussions with the majority leader, he has assured me of his willingness to bring the Rockefeller bill to a vote this year.”

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

“This isn't about the science of climate change. Maybe we ought to have that debate. Perhaps that is something we should debate, but that is not what this debate is about.”

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV)

“I rise today to lend my support to the Murkowski Resolution of Disapproval for one simple but enormously important reason: because I believe we must send this strong and urgent message that the fate of our economy, our manufacturing industries, and our workers, including our coal workers, should never be placed solely in the hands of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.”

“I am not here to deny or bicker fruitlessly about the science, as some would suggest. In fact, I would suggest that I think the science is correct. However, it doesn't one iota deter from my support of the Murkowski resolution.”

“I don't care about the Supreme Court. I don't care about EPA in the sense of them being the final voice on the future of my people in the State that has some of the most carbon of any in the country. I know people laugh at coal. We don't. You can't run this country without coal. I am for all alternative fuels, even nuclear, to my surprise. I am for all of them. But when you add them all up, nobody can make the point that you can do any of this without coal. Does it have to be cleaner? Absolutely. Is there any excuse for not making it cleaner? No, there is not. But you can take 90 to 95 percent of the carbon out of it. That is a solution for our people, and we mine coal. We mine coal and send it to the States of people who are drawing up this bill. I just wish they knew us a little better.”

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)

“We need to do something other than hold a political vote on the Murkowski resolution, which has zero prospect of enactment, and which would not alleviate uncertainty about the future even if it did pass the Senate. The Murkowski resolution would only foster confusion. I believe that the best and most practical course of action is for the Senate to pass a bill that provides certainty and real answers for West Virginians and all Americans—a bill that will be passed by the Congress and signed by the President before new requirements that would broadly affect our economy are imposed by regulation.
“I understand that the Senate Democratic leadership is willing to move forward on a bill that pre-empts EPA action, and can win 60 votes in the Senate, be approved by the House, and be signed by the President into law. Senator Rockefeller recently proposed legislation to provide a temporary pre-emption of EPA.”

“I have recently secured commitments from my fellow Senators to provide on the order of $2 billion for each major power plant that installs clean coal technology during the coming decades--with additional funding available to larger projects. I am also negotiating a commitment to provide the West Virginia region with billions more annually to strengthen new and existing regional businesses, to complete the construction of better highways, and to provide other critical investments to ensure that the next generation of West Virginians will have a bright future at home in the Mountain State. President Obama has also assured me of his ongoing support for these priorities of mine.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

“While I am sympathetic to the concerns raised by Senator Murkowski, the impact of her resolution would be, among other things, to negate the significant progress the EPA has made in increasing fuel economy standards for vehicles. For that reason I am unable to support it.

“Instead, I am working with my colleague, Senator Rockefeller, to pass his bill, S. 3072, of which I am a cosponsor, to preserve the EPA's ability to regulate emissions from vehicles but allow the Congress an additional 2 years to address the regulation of all other sources of greenhouse gases.”