Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals

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Let's be the first generation to end poverty by 2015 with the United Nations' Eight Goal Millennium Campaign.
1. End Hunger 2. Universal Education 3. Gender Equity 4. Child Health 5. Maternal Health 6. Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases 7. Environmental Sustainability 8. Global Partnership.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Defending the Clean Air Act on the Web and in Congress

Sphere: Related Content

My last post was on the arguments for climate change and my admitting to having little interest in engaging in the all to often flaming rhetoric that makes up the blogosphere. It is a different matter when our elected representatives are doing it, that we have to live with. The Environmental Defense Fund had warned us that Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had submitted a "resolution of disapproval" that demanded opposition because of its intention to eliminate the Clean Air Act's ability to protect Americans from global warming.This attack would put public health at risk and jeopardize long-overdue action to hold the biggest polluters accountable, reduce America's oil dependence and jump-start a vibrant clean energy economy.The Supreme Court ruled that global warming pollutants are covered by the Clean Air Act and the EPA has begun carrying out the law by taking steps to limit global warming pollution from vehicle and from large power plants and factories.

Fortunately, I have two Senators who support my views on the environment and work to make positive change. I am going to include the information that they provided me in its entirety even though the general rule of blogging is not to have overly lengthy posts.

From Senator Barbara Boxer

Dear Mr. Dowling: Thank you for writing to me in opposition to a proposal that could overturn the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) global warming endangerment finding. I share your opposition to this proposal.

As you may know, on December 7, 2009, the EPA issued a finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. However, there are efforts underway to curtail the EPA's authority by repealing the agency's finding. I believe that such efforts are misguided and would greatly undermine the Clean Air Act, a landmark environmental law that has safeguarded the air we breathe for decades.

Debating over what to do about unchecked global warming is fair, and the Senate will continue to evaluate the best tools for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, but repealing an endangerment finding based upon years of work by America's leading scientists and public health experts is not appropriate. On January 11, the Majority Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) united together in opposition to the effort to overturn EPA's endangerment finding and urged all of our Senate colleagues to do the same. I believe that my colleagues and I will be successful in blocking this ill-conceived proposal.

Throughout my tenure in Congress and now as Chairman of EPW, I have worked to uphold our important environmental laws and lead the way in our fight against global warming. In my continuing efforts, Senator John Kerry and I proudly introduced the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S.1733), which would establish strong greenhouse gas emission standards, promote clean energy, and create millions of new jobs. Our bill would also ensure that the Clean Air Act and other landmark environmental protections are not weakened as we work together to fight dangerous global warming.

S.1733 was passed by the EPW Committee on November 5, 2009, and provisions of our bill will now become part of a comprehensive clean energy and climate package for consideration by the full Senate. Be assured that I will work to defeat all attacks on our environmental protections and keep working to see a clean energy and climate change bill signed into law.

Again, thank you for writing to me. Please feel free to write to me in the future about this or any other issue of concern to you.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

From Senator Feinstein

Dear Mr. Dowling:

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to efforts by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to reverse the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, and block the EPA from regulating those emissions. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, last year, Senator Murkowski proposed an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-88) that would have prohibited the EPA from using any funds to enforce the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. Although Senator Murkowski's amendment did not receive a vote, you may be interested to know that I spoke out against the amendment on the Senate floor and have included my remarks for your review.

Additionally, Senator Murkowski has introduced a resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 26) to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, even though such regulation is necessary in order to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Massachusetts v. EPA decision in 2007. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has the authority to disapprove of a regulatory rule issued by an agency by enacting a joint disapproval resolution within 60 legislative days of receiving the rule. The resolution must be signed by the President in order to overturn a rule. Senator Murkowski has also indicated that she may offer a similar measure to limit federal action on climate change to legislation that would increase the national debt limit (H. J. Res. 45).

Please know that I share your support for taking strong action to address climate change, and I appreciate hearing your concern about efforts to weaken the EPA's regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. In my view, the United States needs multiple tools to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of climate change. While I believe that regulating the largest greenhouse gas emitters under a new cap and trade system would be more effective and less expensive than regulating these sources under the existing Clean Air Act, I believe Congress must ensure that the EPA has tools to reduce emissions from large-scale emitters in the United States in a way that minimizes costs to consumers. Again, thank you for writing. If you have additional questions or comments, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Statement in Opposition to the Murkowski Amendment #2530 H.R. 2996, the Interior Appropriations Bill
September 24, 2009


Mr. President, I know Senator Boxer, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has an hour reserved to come and speak.

First, I will respond to the comments of the distinguished Senator from Alaska. I hope she will understand there are many of us who have viewed her amendment with substantial alarm, for reasons that I thought I might spend a few moments speaking about.

Essentially, as I understood the amendment, which was blocked from coming to the floor, it attempted to prohibit the EPA from using any funds to enforce the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

The proponents have argued that their only goal was to protect small family-owned farms and businesses from overly burdensome regulations. Yet the amendment would have gone much further. In fact, it would actually exempt some of the Nation's largest commercial emitters from climate change regulation, including huge industrial facilities, such as power plants and refineries.

I am very pleased that this amendment is not before us today. The underlying rationale, as I understand it from the amendment, is groundless. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made it clear that the agency will not use the Clean Air Act to regulate either small businesses or family-owned farms. I was prepared, should the amendment have come up, to put down a side-by-side amendment that would have clearly exempted any farm, as well as any business, that emits under 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Let me point this out. Stationary industrial sources account for over half of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to EPA. These are the leading cause of climate change, and they must be reduced if we have any hope of containing the worst impact of climate change.The amendment would have hampered the administration's effort to tackle one of the biggest pieces of the emissions puzzle: large industrial facilities. It would have been a major setback.

Thirdly, the amendment would effectively overturn the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. In that decision, the Court found that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to determine whether the emissions of greenhouse gases may be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare and then comply with the Clean Air Act requirements designed to protect public health from dangerous pollution. Upon completion of an endangerment finding, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to control greenhouse gases from both stationary and mobile sources.

Many argue -- and I happen to agree -- that regulating the largest greenhouse gas emitters through new legislation, establishing a cap-and-trade system, would be more efficient and less expensive than regulating these sources under the existing Clean Air Act.But until Congress enacts climate change legislation, EPA has a legal obligation to follow the Clean Air Act. So if one does not want EPA to take action under the Clean Air Act, then this body should want to pass a cap-and-trade bill.

The chairman of the EPW Committee, Senator Boxer, has been working very hard to put together a bill which has an opportunity to pass this Senate.

The point is, if we do not want the Clean Air Act to prevail, then the cap-and-trade bill is the only way to go. That is a clear incentive for the Senate and the House to pass a bill.

EPA has released a draft endangerment finding which it is going to soon finalize. Yet the amendment would have blocked EPA from completing the endangerment finding and from complying with its legal obligations to protect public health. The repercussions would have been major. It means EPA would not be able to complete a joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation to increase corporate average fuel economy, which we call CAFE, and create a tailpipe emissions standard for automobiles.

That would have been a major problem. It would block implementation of the 2007 fuel economy law which I authored with Senator Snowe and which took us a long time to get passed and enacted.

By undermining the negotiated agreement between States and the Obama administration, the Murkowski amendment would also have likely resulted in States moving forward with their own tailpipe emissions standards which automakers have fought for years as too onerous. This would have stopped California and 14 other States and the District of Columbia from moving forward with implementing tailpipe emissions standards.

This amendment is vigorously opposed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, and the United Auto Workers. To that end, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks a letter from the Auto Alliance and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, finally, the amendment would send the wrong signal to the rest of the world about the Senate's intentions on climate change. It would suggest that we want to ignore the clear imperative to act, despite the efforts of the administration to motivate the international community in advance of the Copenhagen summit.

There is some concern also about small emitters. EPA is not planning to regulate small emitters. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has clearly stated on several occasions that the agency will not regulate small emitters.

She said it in her confirmation hearings, she said it again at Senate budget hearings, and she reiterated that comment when she appeared before the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on EPA's fiscal year 2010 budget just a few months ago.

In fact, Administrator Jackson has sent a draft deregulatory rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review which would establish clearly that all but the very largest sources of greenhouse gas will be preemptively exempted from the stationary source permitting requirements in the Clean Air Act.

She has no intention of regulating small sources that emit under 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide or any small farm. 25,000 metric tons is a very high threshold. According to EPA, it is equivalent to the emissions from burning 131 trainloads of coal per year -- these would be exempted -- or burning 2.8 million gallons of gasoline annually. The 25,000-ton threshold would exempt every small source, focusing only on 13,000 of the largest emitters in the United States.

Let me say that again. The 25,000-ton threshold which EPA intends to proceed with, and which my side-by-side amendment would have had as one of the two criteria, would exempt every small source, focusing only on the 13,000 largest emitters in the United States. EPA intends to only regulate the largest facilities, and these facilities are, almost without exception, already regulated under the Clean Air Act for emissions of other pollutants such as soot, smog-forming nitrous oxides, or acid-rain-inducing sulfur dioxide. Let me now explain why the Murkowski Amendment would impact the joint EPA-Department of Transportation rulemaking on automobile greenhouse gas emissions.

This rulemaking is of critical importance, and the regulation implementing this law was negotiated by the White House in cooperation with automakers, the States, and labor. But according to a letter I received from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last night, the impact of the Murkowski amendment "would be to make it impossible for the EPA to promulgate the light-duty vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions standards that the agency proposed on September 15, 2009."

She writes: Because of the way the Clean Air Act is written, promulgation of the proposed light-duty vehicle rule will automatically make carbon dioxide a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources, as well as for light-duty vehicles. The only way that EPA could comply with the prohibition in Senator Murkowski's amendment would be to not promulgate the light-duty vehicle standards."

These standards are something Senator Snowe and I have worked for at least 7 years now, beginning with the SUV loophole and ending with the bill that became law, would be totally undermined. By undermining the negotiated agreement between States, the amendment would also likely result in States moving forward with their own tailpipe emissions standards.

As I indicated before, in 2002 California enacted a landmark law to reduce tailpipe emissions standards by 30 percent for all new sedans, trucks, and SUVs by 2016.
I also stated that 14 other States -- namely, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia -- have adopted or announced their intention to adopt California's greenhouse gas emissions controls.

The amendment would have been a major roadblock in efforts to improve fuel economy standards for vehicles. I don't think we can bury our head in the sand when it comes to climate change.

I would like to conclude by reminding my colleagues that it makes no sense at this particular point in time to put on the floor a major amendment which well could have devastated both the EPA and any effort to get to cap-and-trade legislation when, in fact, the EPW Committee is struggling to write a comprehensive bill which has an opportunity to pass this body.

Again I say, if people do not want the Clean Air Act prevailing, then the only way you can do that is with a cap-and-trade bill. That is the way the committee of this body is proceeding. I believe it is the correct way.

I believe our Nation is in serious jeopardy, as is the rest of planet Earth, with global warming. I believe it is real. Just this week, the Journal Nature published a new paper that found rapid deterioration of the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica. Yesterday on this floor, I showed the deterioration in the Arctic. I showed the deterioration in Greenland. I showed the deterioration in the Chukchi Sea. I showed the deterioration off Barrow, AK. It is happening all over the world.

The Flat Earth Society cannot prevail. I think there is a real danger signal out there for planet Earth. We know we cannot reverse it. We know that greenhouse gases do not dissipate and go away after a period of time in the atmosphere. We now know these gases that began during the Industrial Revolution are still present in the atmosphere, and we know that the Earth is not immutable, that it can change. We look at other planets and we see that they have changed over the millennia. What we do here to protect our planet Earth for the next generations is so key and critical.

This discussion has to be joined in an appropriate way, and an appropriate way is when a cap-and-trade bill is produced by the Environment and Public Works Committee and the chairman of that committee is on this floor and the bill is open for amendments and there is a free flow of debate and discussion.

I believe the science is real. I pointed out yesterday we have a project in intelligence whereby the satellites are tracking deterioration in the ice shelves of the world. I hope to present more of that information when there is a bill on the Senate floor.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the Nation are available at my website You can also receive electronic e-mail updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at

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