In addition to brewing fights over offshore drilling revenues and a host of other issues, the conflict over whether or not federal climate legislation should pre-empt the Clean Air Act continues to heat up. As it stands, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. A variety of Senators, ranging from Rockefeller on the Democratic side, to Murkowski (R – Big Oil) on the Republican side, initiated unsuccessful efforts earlier this year to take this authority away.
As part of the grand compromise being crafted by Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman, rumors have been circulating that this authority will be taken away, effectively weakening the strongest environmental law on the books. As recently as earlier this week Senator Graham indicated that the bill would include such a provision.
Several Senators, including 10 industrial-state Democrats as well as Voinovich (R-OH) have indicated that taking this step to weaken the Clean Air Act is necessary for them to support the bill. These Senators are at odds with most environmentalists, who maintain that EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, while not a perfect tool, should be maintained as a backstop regardless. Both the Sierra Club and 1Sky have made it clear that they will oppose any climate legislation that prevents the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
This is the context for the latest grassroots action campaign initiated by CREDO. Seeking clarity on how Senator Kerry plans to deal with this disagreement, CREDO has generated over 700 phone calls to the Senator, asking where he stands. Here is the relevant part of the script callers are using:
The Clean Air Act should not be compromised, rolled back or used as a bargaining chip as part of any deal to bring energy or climate change legislation to the floor of the Senate. Sen. Kerry has long been an environmental champion but he is putting his legacy at risk.
Will Senator Kerry protect the Clean Air Act authority and fight any effort to roll back the Clean Air Act in congress?
CREDO then asked activists who called to let them know how Senator Kerry’s staff responded. CREDO has provided EnviroKnow with a sampling of how activists reported staff responses to this question. Their responses largely indicated that Senator Kerry will not be compromising the Clean Air Act in order to reach a deal on climate legislation. Here are some highlights:
Staffer says there is “no truth to the rumor” that Kerry is poised to compromise.Asked if Senator Kerry supported the clean air act. Person replied, “He’s doing just that” and hung up.
Claims Sen Kerry is trying to strengthen, not weaken, the Clean Air Act.
His aide said “Sen. Kerry wouldn’t do that!” When I said I didn’t want him to use the CAA as a bargaining chip…
I just spoke to one of Senator Kerry’s aides who flatly denied that Sen. Kerry is trying to compromise the Clean Air Act, indeed, he say the senator is trying to strengthen it.
Man who answered says we’re jumping the gun. Says bill has not been released yet and won’t be until Monday. Says Kerry would never do anything to weaken the Clean Air Act.
Person answering phone claims he will not compromise Clean Air Act.
Staffer said Kerry is a big supporter of the environment and he will absolutely not allow the Clean Air Act to be weakened!
Strong statement Kerry will not under any circumstances consider any suggestion to weaken the Clean Air Act or to limit the EPA’s powers under it.
It seems pretty unequivocal: Senator Kerry is not willing to compromise the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. It should be interesting to see how other Senators react to this when the draft language is released on Monday.