The Kentucky Republican's amendment to a small business bill was rejected with a 50-50 vote; 60 votes were required for passage. Three other amendments aimed at handcuffing the EPA also failed to attract 60 votes.
Greenhouse gases rise from the stacks of the Paradise coal-fired power plant on the Green River in western Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Davis)
McConnell said on the Senate floor that his amendment, based on legislation by Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, "would prevent unelected bureaucrats ... from imposing a new national energy tax on American job creators. Everyone knows that this attempt to handcuff American businesses with new costs and regulations is the last thing these job creators need right now."
In December 2009, the EPA issued a scientific finding that heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing the global climate, endangering U.S. public health and the environment.
Senator Mitch McConnell (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
McConnell, and other Republicans have long wanted to overturn the so-called "endangerment finding" and deny the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
Inhofe, a long-time climate change skeptic who is the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, attempted to put a good face on the defeat, saying, "A total of 64 senators voted for amendments that, in one form or another, expressed opposition to various aspects of EPA's global warming regulatory schemes. I will continue to press for votes on my legislation until we get it to the President's desk."
Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, "Today, the Senate stood up for children and families by defeating four amendments that would have interfered with EPA's efforts to protect the health and safety of the American public."
Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who chairs the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, said, "Forty years ago, naysayers claimed the Clean Air Act was too costly and would doom our economy. We heard the same predictions in 1990 when we strengthened the Clean Air Act. But the naysayers were wrong. Since 1970, the Clean Air Act's benefits have outweighed costs by 30 to 1, and our Gross Domestic Product has grown over 200 percent. Cleaner air has saved thousands of lives, billions of dollars in health care costs and it has grown our economy. By voting down these amendments, we have kept America on the right course."
Senator Tom Carper (Photo by Sussex County 4H)
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, who chairs the Children's Health and Environmental Responsibility Subcommittee, said, "The ongoing assault against the Clean Air Act, as evidenced by the McConnell amendment, represents the dramatic shift to ideological politics that have taken over Washington. The Clean Air Act was passed with strong support from Republicans and Democrats before being signed into law by President Nixon to protect the integrity of our air supply. Today, instead of protecting the health and well-being of our people, some are protecting the profits of large polluters, and I simply think that's wrong."
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who chairs the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee, said, "I find it unconscionable that in the year 2011 the Clean Air Act is being attacked by big polluters and their allies in Congress who want to gut this successful public health law. We know the very real health benefits of cleaner air, and that is why I introduced a Resolution, S. Res. 119, with 33 co-sponsors, to fight back against efforts to deregulate polluters."
Not all Republicans want to remove the U.S. EPA's regulatory power to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Republicans for Environmental Protection, a national grassroots organization, supports the agency's authority under the Clean Air Act, which was signed into law in 1970 by Republican President Richard Nixon.
"REP agrees that the best way to regulate carbon pollution would be congressional legislation, but it is not prudent to tie EPA's hands when there is no realistic prospect of Congress agreeing on comprehensive climate legislation over the next two years," said Jim DiPeso, REP vice president for policy and communications.
"It is worth noting that in 2008, President George W. Bush's EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson advised that 'the latest science of climate change requires the agency to propose a positive endangerment finding' and he proposed virtually the same course of action that EPA is currently pursuing," DiPeso said.
Environmentalists had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign in defense of the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Sam Parry, director of online membership and activism with the Environmental Defense Fund, said, "This is a very big deal and we thank the more than 145,000 of you who sent emails and thousands more who called your Senators to oppose these pro-polluter amendments. Today proves that when we stand together, we can stand up to the lavishly funded polluter lobby ... and that we can win!"
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.