The Skywriter

1Sky Policy Update 3/30/2011 - Potential Senate Climate Showdown


1Sky Policy Update 3/30/2011 - Potential Senate Climate Showdown


This week the Senate could potentially hold the first set of major climate votes of the 112th Congress on up to four Dirty Air Acts: McConnell-Inhofe, Rockefeller, Baucus, and Stabenow. For years now the Senate has delayed comprehensive action on climate and clean energy - the only major votes held on climate have been votes on polluter-endorsed bills that would gut the Clean Air Act. This vote could set the stage for further Clean Air Act and climate fights as the 2012 election cycle approaches. The vote count in the Senate is not expected to be strong enough to override a veto from President Obama. The goal of big polluters and their allies in Congress is to put political pressure on the president, forcing him to cave on his climate promises and compromise the Clean Air Act.

Senate Dirty Air Act Votes

The Senate is currently considering three or four measures to weaken the Clean Air Act, introduced as policy riders to an unrelated small business bill. Big polluters and their allies in Congress have been pushing for a vote on these bad bills for over a year now, and Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has finally caved and will allow votes to proceed.

Dirty Air Acts: each of these bills will put a halt to work underway at the EPA to cut carbon pollution from major emitters like coal plants.

  • McConnell-Inhofe-Upton (R-KY,OK,MI), Amendment #183 - guts the Clean Air Act indefinitely for carbon pollution, overturning EPA's scientific finding that climate change is a threat to public health.
  • Rockefeller (D-WV), Amendment #215 - guts Clean Air Act provisions that regulate big polluters like coal plants. It's branded as a two-year "delay," but it would likely result in an indefinite halt to coal plant regulations.
  • Baucus (D-MT), Amendment #236 - weakens climate rules for industrial polluters and big agriculture.
  • Stabenow (D-MI), floated last night, this measure would include similar rollbacks to Rockefeller, but with extra exemptions for big agriculture, and funds for manufacturing. It's unclear whether or not this bill will receive a vote.

Outside groups have been anticipating this vote for a long time given its potential to set the tone for climate and energy policy leading up to the 2012 elections.

Koch-supported astroturf campaigners at Americans for Prosperity are encouraging senators to support only the McConnell-Inhofe amendment, presumably to help brand bad bills led by Democrats as more moderate.

1Sky and our allies have been crystal clear in our opposition to any bill that rolls back the Clean Air Act. We have held hundreds of actions and made thousands of phone calls over the last year and a half demonstrating a broad base of support for protecting the Clean Air Act, including rallies in 17 states just last month.

Obama's Wyoming Coal Giveaway

Last week President Obama's Department of the Interior approved a massive expansion of coal mining on public lands in Wyoming - 2.35 billion tons of new coal, equal to the annual emissions for 300 coal-fired power plants.

This announcement is ironic given the Department of the Interior's (DOI) past commitment to renewable energy. The DOI touts 4,000 MW of renewable energy capacity approved this year, with 12,000 to be approved for next year; yet this new coal giveaway essentially enables 300,000 MW of new coal capacity to come online - overall that's 30 times more dirty coal than clean renewables.

Sierra Club's Michael Brune is critical of Obama's mixed message on clean energy, read more on it here.

Prepared by Jason Kowalski. Please direct questions or comments to

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