Vote on EPA Regulation Sends Senate a Signal to Act

On Thursday, the Senate defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) “disapproval resolution” intended to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the existing Clean Air Act.

The vote sends a clear signal that the Senate must act now. The Senate must invest its time and energy over the next two months to find the common ground solutions required to pass meaningful clean energy and climate legislation. The key building blocks for a final bill already exist, and the Senate must seize this opportunity to create a safer, cleaner, more secure energy future. 

A few things are clear from the vote:

  • 53 Senators voted in support of EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pose a danger to human health and environment, with many stating their preference for Congressional action but not wanting to unilaterally disarm EPA.
  • Of the Senators voting for the resolution, at least 8 made statements saying that they believe we need to reduce GHG emissions.  Among these were 5 Republican Senators.
  • In total, at least 61 Senators, through their votes or statements today, expressed support for policy that would limit GHG emissions.

In addition, Sen. Murkowski and at least 17 of the Senators who voted for Sen. Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval framed their votes as intended to prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the existing Clean Air Act or about the separation of powers, rather than as statements on climate science.  Following are excerpts from Senate floor statements or from press releases following the vote that indicate the Senators’ willingness to work toward Senate action on a clean energy and climate bill.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC):  What I propose is that the Congress, once we stop the EPA, create a rational way forward on energy policy that includes clean air and regulation of carbon. … Carbon is bad. Let's do something about it in a commonsense way. … If we can clean up the air in America, we would be doing the next generation and the world a great service. The key is, can you clean up the air and make it good business? I believe you can. Let's pursue both things: good business and clean air.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE):  Now, I have no doubt that carbon emissions should be reduced in the U.S. But not through excessively costly EPA regulations or a complicated cap and trade proposal that could spur speculation that enriches Wall Street, while not cleaning the air above Main Street. …   In my view greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced through a comprehensive energy bill. One that promotes efficiency, innovation, new technology, and renewable energy such as wind and biofuels that can be produced in Nebraska's fields. An energy bill should help, not harm, Nebraska and the American economy as it cleans up the air.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME):  Our country must develop reasonable policies to spur the creation of green energy jobs, lessen our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We face an international race to lead the world in alternative energy technologies, and we can win that race if Congress enacts legislation to put a price on carbon and thus encourage investment here in the United States.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR): There is clear consensus within the scientific community that human activities will have a serious and costly impact on our environment unless we take meaningful steps to mitigate pollution from greenhouse gases. … Congress should act quickly, but thoughtfully, in developing comprehensive energy and climate policies that meet our nation’s needs. The costs of inaction or wrong action are too great for future generations.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME): [I]t is Congress – and not unelected bureaucrats – that should be responsible for developing environmental policies that integrate our nation’s economic well-being as an urgent priority along with the reduction of carbon emissions, and I do not accept that these are mutually exclusive goals. … I will continue to work with my congressional colleagues to achieve our shared goals of fostering a healthy economy while moving toward a clean-energy future by replacing EPA regulations with a system that protects Maine employers and reduces greenhouse gases by the level that science dictates.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA): I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to find a better, smarter way forward in the weeks ahead.  Americans want and need energy solutions and more job creation, not overreach by regulators. That starts with real, public debate on climate change and energy challenges facing our nation.

Eileen Claussen is President