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DC Hill update 6/1/10: Murkowski Dirty Air Act vote set for June 10th


DC Hill update 6/1/10: Murkowski Dirty Air Act vote set for June 10th

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Last week, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) struck a deal with the Democratic leadership that will allow her to force a vote on her “disapproval resolution” on the Clean Air Act on next Thursday, June 10. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he will make a climate and energy bill a priority after the Memorial Day recess, huddling with key chairmen and working to chart out a path forward on "energy-related" legislation. At a high-profile press event President Obama identified comprehensive legislation as the long-term fix for preventing further oil-related disasters. Members of Congress are back in their states and districts all week for Memorial Day recess.

Senate Timeline:

  • 5/29-6/6: Memorial Day Senate recess
  • Week of 6/7: Congress resumes. 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
  • 7/3-7/11: Independence Day Recess

Murkowski's Dirty Air Act Vote Slated For June 10th

Senator Murkowski (R-AK) struck a deal with Senate leadership allowing her to bring the “Dirty Air Act” up for a vote the Thursday after recess, after the original June 7 deadline.

Murkowski's "resolution of disapproval" (S.J.Res. 26) currently has 41 co-sponsors, and only needs 51 votes to pass.

According to the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the U.S. would use at least 450 million more barrels of oil as a result of the blocked clean car standards alone. This figure is equivalent to allowing the BP spill continue to gush for at least 250 years, based on BP’s initial estimates of the size of the spill. It also means more than $33.3 billion in lost savings for Americans at the gas pump (assuming current oil prices hold), and continued dependence on dirty fossil fuels that threaten public health, national security, worker safety, the environment, and the economy. Click here for a look at the group letter (.pdf) 1Sky and dozens of other groups signed opposing the bill.

Even if Murkowski's Dirty Air Act were to pass the Senate, it faces an uphill climb in the House, which does not have the same expedited procedures for bringing the measure to a vote, and it faces a likely veto from President Obama.

However, winning as many votes as possible against Murkowski is a crucial show of support for strong Clean Air Act regulations that will reduce emissions from cars and big polluters. And without a climate bill, the Clean Air Act is the most powerful tool we have to crack down on carbon pollution.

1Sky and other climate advocacy organizations will continue to mobilize in opposition to the Dirty Air Act throughout the next 2 weeks: see and

For more information, check out USCAN's Dirty Air Act page.

Comprehensive Climate and Energy Bill in the Senate

After the Memorial day recess, Majority Leader Reid plans to gather "all the chairmen together who have jurisdiction on energy-related matters" to chart a path forward on "energy-related" legislation.

Last week, Reid reemphasized the need to move beyond dirty fossil fuels in a speech on the Senate floor:

Meanwhile, Senator Lieberman (I-CT) expressed his hope that he and Senator Kerry (D-MA) can bring the bill up for a vote "maybe the end of June, or July some time."

Senator Kerry said that a vote on a comprehensive bill should be "relatively easy . . . now" in light of the BP drilling disaster. However, his rhetoric suggests that floor time for his bill may be delayed past August, or even after the elections in November.

It may be, timing-wise, we wait a few months. . . We may not get enough people to get out of the election fear factor this year, but this isn't going away. And we are going to stay on it and keep pushing,"

On the prospects of an 'energy-only' bill, Kerry said: "It's not going to solve anything. We did an energy bill in 2005. We did an energy bill in 2007. We've had two energy bills in the last four years, five years, whatever. What's it done?"

President Obama Steps up his Clean Energy Rhetoric in the Face of Drilling Disaster

On Thursday, President Obama announced that the BP disaster "should serve as a wake-up call that it is time to move forward on [comprehensive] legislation. . . I call on Democrats and Republicans in Congress, working with my administration, to answer this challenge once and for all." (Full remarks here.)

I will tell you, though, that understanding we need to grow -- we’re going to be consuming oil for our industries and for how people live in this country, we’re going to have to start moving on this transition. And that’s why when I went to the Republican Caucus just this week, I said to them, let’s work together. You’ve got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsey Graham -- even though Lindsey is not on the bill right now -- coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support, and says, yes, we’re going to still need oil production, but you know what: we can see what’s out there on the horizon, and it’s a problem if we don't start changing how we operate.

In the lead-up to Thursday's press conference, Obama solidified his ban on new deep-water oil-and-gas drilling permits for six months and will also delay drilling in shallower Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast.

President Obama also brought up the need for climate and energy legislation at a meeting with Republican Senators last Tuesday.

The President told the conference that the gulf oil disaster should heighten our sense of urgency to hasten the development of new, clean energy sources that will promote energy independence and good-paying American jobs . . .He asked that they work with him on the promising proposals currently before Congress.

1Sky and others in the climate community agree that stronger rhetoric from President Obama is a necessary prerequisite for passing strong climate and energy legislation in the Senate this year. His statements this week are steps in the right direction, but are not strong enough to break the gridlock in the Senate. 1Sky organizers nationwide have been joining our Dirty Energy Hunt / No More Drilling campaign. See this page for photos.

BP Drilling Disaster Update

The U.S. Geological Survey announced that the BP Gulf Disaster is the worst oil leak in U.S. history (worse than Exxon-Valdez in 1989), with between 17 and 39 million gallons spilled since the disaster began.

BP announced this weekend that their "top kill" procedure to pump heavy sludge into the hole which is gushing oil a mile under the ocean’s surface has failed. Their next idea for fixing the spill will is called a "lower-marine-riser package cap," in which an underwater robot uses a saw to cut the leaking pipe and put a cap over it.

The damage to the Gulf is just beginning. Mother Jones offers a first-hand report on the clean up efforts and environmental impacts.

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

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