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7 Deadly Amendments That Would’ve Protected Dirty Energy And Trashed The Climate

By Ryan Koronowski, Tiffany Germain, Guest Contributor, Daniel J. Weiss, Guest Contributor, and Jessica Goad, Guest Contributor on March 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

"7 Deadly Amendments That Would’ve Protected Dirty Energy And Trashed The Climate"

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This weekend, Senate Democrats passed a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2014. In order to do so, Senate rules allow for consideration of any amendment that is brought to the floor. Senators introduced hundreds of amendments, which resulted in a “vote-o-rama.”

Many conservatives offered amendments to undermine existing and potential public health safeguards, particularly those that would attempt to reduce climate pollution. Below are seven deadly amendments to curtail protection for our children’s health and heritage. As usual, these conservatives are focused on protecting dirty energy companies profits at the expense of public health.

  • Blunt #261: This amendment would have blocked future legislation to impose a carbon tax or fee to reduce industrial carbon pollution and raise revenue. Specifically, the amendment would create a “point-of-order” against any carbon tax measure that could only be overcome with a three-fifths vote of legislators. While it would have been a mostly symbolic move, the fossil fuel industry’s friends in the Senate are reiterating their opposition to government action on climate pollution. However, the impacts of climate change have already been felt across the country — in 2011 and 2012, the United States suffered from 25 climate related storms, floods, heat waves, drought, and wildfires that each caused at least $1 billion in damages, with a total price tag of $188 billion. The Blunt amendment would allow these damages and costs to grow unchecked. Result: FAILED 53-46
  • Coats #514: This amendment would have struck down key Clean Air Act protections by authorizing the President to exempt any industrial facility from complying with air toxics standards for two-year periods. Essentially, the amendment would have given a free pass to coal-burning power plants from EPA’s 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were put in place due to the well-documented health risks of mercury, arsenic, and the millions of pounds of additional hazardous chemicals. Methylmercury from coal pollution accumulates in fish, poisoning pregnant women and small children. Mercury can harm children’s developing brains, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills. Upgrades to the aged and dirty coal plants will also significantly reduce harmful particle pollution, preventing hundreds of thousands of illnesses and up to 17,000 premature deaths each year. “The ‘monetized’ value of these and certain other health benefits would amount to $37–90 billion per year,” the Environmental Protection Agency determined. Republicans are once again trying to protect the dirty energy industry over our children’s health. Result: FAILED 46-53
  • Alexander #516: This would “repeal … the wind production tax credit.” The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity to encourage investment in clean wind energy. A CAP analysis determined that “wind power helps lower electricity prices.” Along with state renewable portfolio or electricity standards, the PTC has enabled “the wind industry … to lower the cost of wind power by more than 90% [and] provide power to the equivalent of over 12 million American homes.” A Navigant Consulting analysis predicted that eliminating the PTC would cost 37,000 jobs. Some argue that we should end tax provisions for clean technologies, including wind. However, this ignores the fact that the oil and gas industries have received $80 in support for every $1 for wind and other renewable energy sources over the past 95 years. In addition, the Alexander amendment would ignore the annual $4 billion in special tax breaks for big oil companies. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Inhofe #359: This amendment would “[prohibit] further greenhouse gas regulations for the purpose of addressing climate change.” This would have prevented the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court, which ruled that EPA is required to regulate carbon and other climate change pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. EPA proposed the first carbon pollution standard for new power plants in 2012. After it is finalized, EPA must set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — responsible for two-fifths of U.S. carbon pollution. Such reductions are essential to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Result: FAILED 47-52

  • Cruz #470: This radical amendment would have limited the amount of land owned by the federal government in each state. It is yet another attempt by Republicans to give federal public lands over to states or private companies so as to better exploit them, and is in line with recent efforts of House Republicans to sell off “millions of acres” of public lands to private companies. Despite what this amendment implies, public lands provide tremendous economic benefits to local communities. For example, recreation and other uses of the 500 million acres of public lands managed by the Interior Department contributed two million jobs and $385 billion in economic activity in 2011. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Vitter #544: This amendment would have dismantled the president’s authority to protect America’s historical and natural treasures under the Antiquities Act. Since it was passed in 1906, 16 out of 19 presidents have used the act to protect places like the Statue of Liberty, Muir Woods, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Acadia. Just this week it was reported that President Obama would create five new national monuments including Delaware’s first-ever national park. The Vitter amendment would have kept the president from answering local communities’ calls to protect such places for future generations. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Murkowski #370: This amendment states that it would “increase oil and natural gas production on Federal lands and waters,” despite the fact that oil production is at its highest level in 20 years. Additionally, the Congressional Research Service noted that over the last four years oil production from federally-owned areas was higher than in 2008, despite the fact that companies are choosing to “follow the oil” to shale plays on nonfederal lands. Murkowski’s amendment isn’t the only one that would have sought to fulfill the wish list of the oil and gas industry — Sessions #204 would have opened the economically and environmentally vibrant coasts of Virginia and North Carolina to dangerous oil and gas exploration. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.

On Monday March 18, the GOP released its “Growth and Opportunity Project” or “autopsy” report that tried to determine why Republicans lost in 2012, and how to prevent future defeats. While the report did not mention climate or energy — or deal with much policy — it did talk demographics and messaging. The report urged that the Republican Party should change its tone, “… especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters.” They need to “promote forward-looking, positive policy proposals that unite young voters,” and “be conscious of developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women.” And finally, they stress the importance of “addressing the concerns of minority communities.”

In their effort to do the bidding of big oil and other major polluters, the authors of these seven deadly amendments blithely ignore the findings and recommendations of this autopsy. The groups most harmed by and concerned about climate change are most supportive of addressing the problem: young people, women, and minority groups.

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15 Responses to 7 Deadly Amendments That Would’ve Protected Dirty Energy And Trashed The Climate

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s scary that Inhofe’s amendment to prohibit future restrictions on emissions only failed by five votes. All of the talk about the Republicans being the party of the past, out of touch with growing minority and youth votes etc is misleading. Pundits said the same thing after Goldwater lost, and then we got Nixon and Reagan. Dole was called a classic Republican dinosaur, and he was followed by W Bush.

    Ignorance and fear are not going out of style anytime soon. Unfortunately, thanks to corporate control of communications and politicians, these qualities are embedded in the electorate. Change may have to be forced from outside, through economic pressure.

    • Speaking of corporate control of media and politicians, I hope CP readers are aware that the Koch brothers are trying to buy the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, along with some other media assets owned by the Tribune company. Daily Kos is sponsoring a petition to the Tribune’s ownership asking it to nix the sale, in case you want to sign up.

      • Sasparilla says:

        Oh man, that would truly be awful – the Koch’s in charge of the Tribune (which recommended Obama for a 2nd time) and the Los Angeles times.

        I went to the site and did a search but couldn’t come up with anything.

        Link please?

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        They are all alike. Kochs, Murdochs, all the rest. All plutocrats, all Rightwingers, all determined to retain their, and their caste’s, power over the planet, at any cost. The MSM is a sewer, one that need not be visited anymore since the arrival of the web. I used to count the lies, idiocies, hypocrisies etc, but it’s not much fun anymore.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Nixon may have been a little keen on control, even to the extent of a bit of burglary, or secret carpet-bombing, but from the point of view of the environment, he was neither morally insane nor suicidal, unlike today’s Republican lunatics. You’re correct about these maniacs-they will keep getting worse and worse,(that is their nature), until the whole circus is wound up, by the human beings seeking to save themselves, or by Mother Nature, chastising her very naughty children.

  2. BillD says:

    Good to see that all of these amendments were defeated. Since Dan Coats is one of my state’s Senators, I just sent him a message asking how he came up with such an “anti-health, anti-environment proposal that is against the interests of the people of our state and our country.”

    I did not call him a “conservative whacko” although that seems like a reasonable term. We need to call out these kinds of ill considered behaviors by are representatives.

  3. “In their effort to do the bidding of big oil and other major polluters, the authors of these seven deadly amendments blithely ignore the findings and recommendations of this autopsy.”

    Don’t be so sure. Where can one read about such legislative maneuvering except in blogs like CP? The GOP report meant what it said: change the tone, but not the substance of its positions. Anybody remember “compassionate conservatism?”

    Their whole idea is to come across to the public as moderate enough to get themselves elected. Then, once they are elected, they can do their dirty work behind closed doors. Look how Cheney handled U.S. energy policy — and where we’re at now with fracking, etc.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      How about the current Tory regime in the UK going to be ‘The Greenest ever UK Government’? The most precious element of the Rightwing credo is the ‘Big Lie’, the lie so audacious that ordinary people, who still have moral scruples and cannot imagine that people would lie so shamelessly, therefore tend to believe must be true. It was recommended long ago as an indispensable tactic by a quite infamous Rightwing politician.

  4. JJM says:

    Sounds like they knew they wouldn’t pass, but they considered proposing these amendments to be something like a beauty parade, where big Oil and Coal etc can pick some favorites to back in future.

  5. Christian says:

    The Republican Party…out to destroy America. For a price.

  6. BillD says:

    Up until a few months before the last election, the GOP was expected to take control of the Senate. Anyone who cares anything about our country and our world has be scared about what a GOP Senate would mean.

  7. clarence swinney says:

    DAVID KOCH $100M WON
    He bought 50 Tea Party seats in the House to do just to things—cut spending and save his huge Bush Tax Cut.
    Non-Defense spending is expected to hit 50-year low.
    Welfare programs and other government spending on such as law enforcement, education, transportation(pot holes), national parks and Research.
    House Republicans voted as one to kill the Minimum Wage Hike.
    Koch is pleased. Forth Four Million are displeased. Koch got huge pay increase via tax cut but fights against workers and the poor.

  8. hmmmm let me get this strait the republicans blew the budget tru the roof when they where in charge and now it we have to control the budget because of the children and grand children wiil pay for it later on yet they will make is so our children and grandchildren wont be able to breath the air drink the water or live on contaminated soil yeah that sounds like their very concerned