Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who recently conceded the Alaska Republican Primary (See 9/1 post), will retain her seat as the ranking member of the Senate’s Energy and National Resources Committee – an unexpected outcome to the post-concession saga.
Senator Murkowski is a well-known player in the energy and environmental policy sphere in Washington – and has been for years. So perhaps it is no surprise that the Senate Republican conference decided today to keep Senator Murkowski as the ranking member on the Senate committee that has spent a large portion of its time over the last year debating the hottest energy and climate policy proposals.
According to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) –
“[Senator Murkowski] is the ranking member…We had a discussion in our conference about other matters, including that, but decided that we would take no action today.”
No action roughly translates into Senator Murkowski retaining her seat until after November’s mid-term elections, which she may enter as a write-in candidate, according to some sources. This does not mean that she will see much action on the committee, as mid-term elections have all but stalled work in Washington until November. But, this move by Senate Republicans could speak towards the party’s unhappiness with a TEA Party that is poised to come barreling into Washington in a very short period of time.
While I do not always agree with Senator Murkowski on her views on energy and climate legislation in Washington today, I respect her hard work and dedication to a task that would easily discourage and frustrate others. She is a strong woman from an oil-and-gas state who digs into policy proposals and issues of concern to her state and the nation with energy and rigor. I was sad on the day that she conceded the Alaskan primary. While I have mixed feelings on rumors of a write-in option for her candidacy, it would be pretty inspiring if the people of Alaska put her through to Washington again through such a gritty and difficult avenue.
The Senate’s fourth-ranking Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has conceded in the Republican primary in Alaska to newly confirmed nominee Joe Miller. Mr. Miller is largely supported by Tea Party leaders and former Governor Sarah Palin.
Senator Murkowski is the current Ranking Member in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She has been a constant voice in hearings regarding carbon cap-and-trade legislation, renewable energy standards, and clean energy issues. While I don’t agree with all of her positions in these areas, I do respect her dedication to developing a national energy policy that Americans can live with.
Last week, in a blog post published on Mackerel Sky, LBJ student Chris Mergerson noted that if Senator Murkowski was not elected to serve an additional term in office, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources would have ZERO representation from the top three petroleum producing states in the U.S. (Alaska, Texas, and California). This fact was quite striking to me – as I would assume that the vested interested of these states in energy issues would cause them to seek leadership roles on these committees – but apparently Senators from these states haven’t made this committee a priority despite its power and influence in energy policy issues.
It will be interesting to watch how Republican leadership in the ongoing energy policy debate shifts with this change in the Republican guard – from one of high-ranking strength born from drive, determination and dedication in Senator Murkowski to a newbie Tea Party activist.
Is it too much to hope for a surprising victory for Scott McAdams?
Yesterday marked the day that Senate Democrats decided to cut their loses by abandoning a year’s worth of work toward a comprehensive energy and climate bill. Today, it is not clear if even the very limited climate and energy bill touted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be presented before the summer recess.
What IS clear is that the Senate has failed to grab the baton passed to it from the House of Representatives. In doing so, they have passed on a prime opportunity to move the nation forward in our drive for a sustainable energy future.
Last June, H.R. 2454 (better known as the Waxman-Markey bill) passed with a single-digit margin in the House of Representatives. This comprehensive climate and energy bill includes key attributes including a renewable energy standard (RES) and a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade system that would regulation emissions from all stationary emitters (ex: power plants, petroleum refineries).
Since passing the responsibility on to their Senate counterparts, those who voted for Waxman-Markey have slowly seen their hopes for federal standards before the end of 2010 quickly fade. The force that pushed federal healthcare reform through Congress – a.k.a. President Obama’s political capital account – has been unable to grab hold in the climate and energy sphere.
After more than a year of debates and committee meetings in the Senate, the decision came through yesterday to dump any major energy and climate legislation from this year’s books. This decision has left Senate Democrats reeling and in apparent need of a strategic regrouping effort during the August recess.
Before then, Senator Harry Reid might still propose a small climate and energy bill (see my post yesterday). Rumors abound that the Senator has decided to add a renewable energy standard (RES) to the bill – if there is a bill, at all – though the Senator’s office denies these rumors.
This latest decision by Senate Democrats is another example of the partisan politics at play in Washington. The climate and energy debate draws straight down party lines, with only six Republicans sitting on the line: Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine. The remainder of the Senate’s republicans are firmly united against any legislation – a black monolith, firmly set in its path.
The frustration felt by the environmental community in response to news that Senate Democrats were dropping their efforts was expressed perhaps no more clearly than by David Bookbinder, former chief climate counsel at the Sierra Club (he resigned in May):
What we have is a year of totally wasted effort by environmental groups that were either unable to do even a fairly simple vote count or ones who simply went along with the prevailing ideology even though they knew that there wasn’t going to be a bill at the end of the process…I think those that knew that there wasn’t going to be a bill and went along with it anyway did so for fear of being seen as not supporting climate legislation, and it wasn’t palatable to them to tell the truth to their members and the public.
Other members of the environmental community wonder if this change could be a blessing, preventing the passage of watered-down legislation that would have been able to achieve the desired outcomes. According to Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, the Senate bill was not able to drum-up excitement in the base – a fundamental problem that could be rectified if Senate Democrats returned to the drawing board.
Yesterday, my blog post was on the EPA’s work in developing a structure under which they can regulate large stationary emitters of greenhouse gases. This work could provide an alternative method of reducing these emissions if congress is unable to pass proposed carbon cap and trade legislation into law. The EPA has recently issued their proposed rule for regulating greenhouse gas emissions and several congressmen are striking back. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is co-sponsoring a resolution with Senator Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina) that would tie the EPA’s hands (at least for a while) by disapproving their finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health and welfare. The resolution is expected to be voted on in 2-3 weeks. The resolution’s co-sponsor is the same Senator Graham who worked with Senators Kerry and Lieberman on developing the Senate’s current energy and climate bill proposal, titled the American Power Act, only to step away from the table just before its reveal. According to Senator Graham, many of the supporters of this resolution believe that we need federal regulations to reduction greenhouse gas emissions. However, they believe that this type of regulation should come from Congress and not from the EPA.
Federal lawmakers have been working for over a year on the development of energy and climate legislation that would regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. This legislation currently sits in the Senate, where a proposal released last week by Senators Kerry and Lieberman has sparked significant discussion and debate.
But the Obama Administration has not put all its eggs in this legislative basket. The Administration is also pursuing regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under existing legislative authority held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, the EPA may regulate greenhouse gases that threaten public health and welfare. On December 7th of last year, the EPA announced its finding regarding current and projected concentrations of six different greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in our atmosphere. The finding (in short) acknowledged the negative impact of these gases.
Subsequent to this finding, the EPA has developed a set of guidelines that would govern their actions to regulate emissions from large power plants, factories and oil refineries. Under a rule proposed last Thursday, qualifying facilities would be limited in their ability to emit certain greenhouse gases. These facilities would include those that emit at least 75,000 tons (for existing plants) of greenhouse gases per year or 100,000 tons per year for new facilities. These facilities represent 70 percent of stationary greenhouse emissions in the United States today. Mobile emitters (aka you and me when we’re driving our cars) would not be directly impacted by this rule – though we would certainly feel its indirect impact from regulations on oil refineries.
According to Senator Barbara Boxer (a Democrat from California) said that the Senate’s energy and climate bill may come out next week. It looks like Senators Kerry and Lieberman are planning to release the bill even if their former Republican partner does not choose to return to the table. This bill had a planned release on April 26, but its unveiling was postponed when tension increased over immigration reform.
According to EE News “The Kerry-Lieberman climate bill is expected to call by 2020 for a 17 percent cut in emissions below 2005 levels, with the emission limits applying to different sectors of the economy at different times. Trade-sensitive manufacturers, for example, would start in the climate program six years after power plants, Kerry said today. The legislation is also expected to promote increased domestic production of nuclear power and offshore oil and gas, despite the outcry from environmentalists in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill.”