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DC Hill Udate 6/8/10: Murkowski "Dirty Air Act" vote this week


DC Hill Udate 6/8/10: Murkowski "Dirty Air Act" vote this week

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The Senate returned from recess on Monday and, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), discussing energy-related legislation is at the top of their agenda. The BP spill has the potential to transform the energy debate in Congress. Leadership in the Senate and the White House have an opportunity to pivot off of the BP spill and drive our energy policy in a new direction. Ironically, that process will begin with a vote on Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) "Dirty Air Act," which would roll back regulations on the oil industry, and make our nation more dependent on oil for years to come. 1Sky and others in the climate community are campaigning to defeat the Dirty Air Act, and sending a clear message to senators that we need to pivot off of this disaster toward a comprehensive solution that will reduce our tragic dependence on oil and other dirty fossil fuels.

Senate Timeline:

  • 6/7: Congress returns from Memorial Day recess
  • 6/10: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) meets with relevant committee chairs to chart a path forward on "energy-related" legislation
  • 6/10: Murkowski’s "Dirty Air Act" up for a vote, needs 51 votes to pass
  • 6/15: Leader Reid meets with Democratic caucus on energy and climate legislation
  • 7/3-7/11: Independence Day recess

Murkowski's Dirty Air Act Vote on Thursday

Senator Murkowski will bring her "Dirty Air Act" up for a vote on Thursday, June 10. Murkowski's "resolution of disapproval" (S.J.Res. 26), which would gut the Clean Air Act, currently has 41 co-sponsors, and only needs 51 votes to pass. The vote will be extremely close and advocacy this week is critical. Winning as many votes as possible against Murkowski is a crucial show of support for Clean Air Act regulations that will reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels like oil and coal. It will also embolden Majority Leader Reid in his efforts to move climate and energy reform before the mid-term elections (see below). 1Sky and other climate advocacy organizations will continue to mobilize in opposition to the Dirty Air Act throughout the next week. For more information, check out USCAN's Dirty Air Act page.

Comprehensive Legislative Responses to the BP Oil Disaster

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) wrote a letter to Committee Chairs calling for comprehensive energy legislation and asking them to "provide any recommendations or report legislation, if desired, in your committee’s jurisdiction, before the Fourth of July recess..."

The Hill published a story laying out a possible Democratic strategy for passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill that mirrors the strategy used for Wall Street reform: A senior Democratic aide said:

The reason we were successful on Wall Street reform is that we were able to show a sharp contrast. We had a foil -- Wall Street -- and we had an enabler -- the Republicans.

The idea is to frame those who vote no as supporters of Big Oil, much like the Democrats used Wall Street to generate the votes for financial regulatory reform.

The disaster that continues to unfold in the Gulf is increasing political pressure to address our dependence on oil. There are several pieces of legislation already being introduced in the House and Senate that address our oil dependence and the BP disaster:

The EPA announced that their analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act discussion draft (.pdf) will be finished this week and released to the Senate on Wednesday.

BP Oil Disaster Update

BP's latest attempt to stop the oil leak, called the "cut-and-cap," is progressing according to plan. The "cut" has been successful, and a loosely-fitting "cap" is now in place. This plan is considered risky because slicing away a section of the pipe could increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent. Over the weekend, BP engineers captured more than 500,000 gallons of oil but oil continues to leak at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Thad Allen warned that the spill could last well into the fall. BP continues to claim that there are no sub-surface plumes of oil, while Good Morning America visits researchers with discovering proof of their existence.

Workers cleaning up the oil are experiencing flu-like symptoms which they claim may be a resultant of the chemical dispersants used to dissipate the oil in the water, although BP and the U.S. Coast Guard continues to say that it is likely food poisoning or dehydration.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a 1Sky ally, reported on their trip over the Gulf of Mexico in this eye-opening blog.

Less than two weeks after Obama's "six-month ban on deepwater offshore drilling," there is confusion, even in the media, on the extent of the Obama Administration's drilling ban. On Wednesday, the Obama Administration approved a new shallow water drilling permit 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana while thousands of barrels continued to pour into the ocean. There is no moratorium on shallow water drilling according to an Interior Department spokeswoman. However, the regional supervisor of field operations at the Minerals Management Service (MMS) "told a company seeking a permit that 'until further notice' no new drilling is being allowed in the Gulf no matter the water depth." The contradiction has yet to be clarified by the Obama Administration.

1Sky and our allies are working to pivot off of the BP Oil Disaster to end our addiction to dirty fossil fuels. is hosting vigils across the country on the 50th day since the oil rig explosion. Seize BP is calling for a seizure of BP's assets to pay for the environmental and economic impacts of the spill on the Gulf Coast. A broad coalition of groups is sponsoring an event called "Hands Across the Sand" on June 26, to call for the protection of our coastal economies and communities and a clean energy economy.

President Obama Calls for Comprehensive Energy and Climate Legislation in Response to BP Disaster

President Obama spoke at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA on Wednesday and focused much of his speech on the BP Oil Disaster and the need for clean energy legislation in the Senate. 1Sky and our allies nationwide are pushing President Obama hard for more engaged leadership in the debate. Obama informed:

The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate -- a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans -- that would achieve the same goal. And, Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. (Applause.) I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can. (Applause.) I will work with anyone to get this done -- and we will get it done. The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.... And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution. . . . But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future -- if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed. And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution.

Prepared by Gabe Elsner and Jason Kowalski from the 1Sky Policy team. Please direct questions or comments to

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