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Policy Update 3/24/11: Continuing Dirty Air Acts in the U.S. Senate


Policy Update 3/24/11: Continuing Dirty Air Acts in the U.S. Senate

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Last week Republicans in the Senate threatened to force a vote on the Upton-Inhofe Dirty Air Act. A vote will be delayed until after the one-week recess but it goes to show how committed big polluters and their allies in Congress are to gutting the Clean Air Act every chance they get. Energy-related disasters and conflicts in Japan and Libya continue to influence the U.S. dialogue on energy and climate policy.

Dirty Air Act Rider Added to Senate Small Business Bill

Anti-Clean Air Act amendments tacked onto last week's small business bill put moderate senators on the defensive. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) entered the Upton-Inhofe Dirty Air bill as an amendment to an unrelated small business bill, sending moderate senators scrambling toward Senator Rockefeller's (D-WV) Dirty Air Act - which also guts key Clean Air Act regulations but is seen as more moderate by some senators.

  • Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has personally vowed to attach his Dirty Air Act to every bill he can.
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller's (D-WV) Dirty-Air Act would derail the Clean Air Act for two years, but likely much longer. David Roberts explains why the Clean Air Act is "screwed" if Rockefeller's bill passes.

NRDC's David Hawkins is disappointed that that the Clean Air Act is coming under bipartisan attack in the Senate despite its history of garnering bipartisan support. Analysis from NRDC suggests that the Inhofe-Upton Dirty Air Act would increase profits for oil companies without cutting gas prices at the pump -- the opposite of what Upton and others claim.

Consideration of the Upton bill in the House is part of a broader plan to keep political pressure on President Obama and moderates in the Senate. In the coming weeks, Upton's Dirty Air Act will likely receive a full House vote, where it is expected to pass. They already voted on essentially the same bill during the first round of budget fights when the anti-Clean Air Act Poe Amendment passed.

Nuclear Disaster in Japan Status Update:

The Fukushima Daiichi plant's six reactors were all damaged during the earthquake and tsunami. Two of the reactors are presumed to have partially melted down due to damaged cooling systems. For the other reactors, the primary issue is spent fuel rods emitting radioactivity directly into the air. The situation is continuing to develop, and a 12 mile radius has been evacuated.

This has all lead to reassessment of nuclear power in the U.S. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is calling for closure of the Indian Point nuclear plant whose "plume exposure" radius of 50 miles includes most of New York City. Meanwhile, Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) is using this moment to remind Americans that renewables are safer than nuclear power. Even conservative Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) supports re-examining the safety of nuclear plants. If you are interested in seeing where nuclear power facilities are located across the US, CNN has a great map.

Other news and opinion around nuclear power this week:

  • David Roberts challenges the conventional wisdom that nuclear power and renewables should be deployed in tandem in a great blog post.
  • The Fukushima Daiishi plant was recently granted a 10-year extension despite reports of faulty backup reactor cooling equipment. Such a massive oversight bears eerie resemblance to the BP oil crisis at the Deepwater Horizon rig.
  • Political cartoonist Tom Toles connects Japan, BP, and climate in a great cartoon.

Power Shift 2011 in 3 weeks:

April 15th-18th: 10,000 youth leaders will come to D.C. from across the country for Power Shift 2011.

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