Jay Rockefeller brings back the Dirty Air Act
by Nathan Empsall, Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 04:29:06 AM EDT
Remember the Dirty Air Act? Senator Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to stop the EPA from following the Supreme Court’s ruling that it regulate carbon pollution per the Clean Air Act? It was defeated last month, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. The Murkowski resolution is child’s play compared to what alleged Democrat Jay Rockefeller has in store with S. 3702, highlighted yesterday by the NRDC’s weekly Legislative Watch. The bill is less than 400 words long.
Although “Dirty Air Act” was just a political nickname given to Murkowski’s resolution, Rockefeller’s bill actually mentions the Clean Air Act by name, and would restrict the EPA’s authority to enforce the Act for the next two years. The bill, given the technical-sounding name “Stationary Source Regulations Delay Act,” would forbid the EPA from classifying “carbon dioxide or methane a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act… for any source other than a new motor vehicle.” In a previous section, the language is even starker: “the Environmental Protection Agency may not take any action under the Clean Air Act… relating to carbon dioxide or methane.” This bill is clearly a parochial attempt to protect West Virginia's carbon-heavy coal industry.
The coal industry tries to convince Appalachian voters and lawmakers that their economy will need coal forever and always – and Rockefeller has bought it, hook line and sinker. The fact is, however, that over 50% of West Virginia coal mining jobs have disappeared in the last 30 years and nearly 90% in the last 60 – partly due to the discovery of cheaper coal in Wyoming, and partly due to technological advancements ala John Henry. This is a dying industry. Plus, the American Lung Association says that coal causes 550,000 asthma attacks and kills 24,000 Americans each year. What’s more, even when the industry does create Appalachian jobs, it prevents even more jobs from coming into the state by devastating mountains, creeks, hollows, and health rates in nearby towns. Land value plummets and education rates are low since mining is not a job demanding much in the way of higher education. Why should new industries come to a place with low land value and few educated workers? Coal is killing West Virginia, and Jay Rockefeller is its accomplice.
This is not the only anti-climate bill Rockefeller introduced this month. From the NRDC link above,
Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) introduced a bill to promote carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. The Rockefeller-Voinovich bill would promote full-scale development and deployment of CCS technology by offering tax credits and other incentives to early adopters. It would also promote CCS research, establish a long-term legal and regulatory framework for CCS, and provide $20 billion in incentives over the next decade for early deployment. However, it includes a problematic provision that would provide post-closure liability relief for geologic sequestration projects.
Another problem is, clean coal probably doesn’t exist. Researching is it throwing good money after bad. That said, I wouldn’t mind funding clean coal research if that’s what it takes to get more Senate votes for renewables and carbon pricing – on one condition. The bill should also state that no new coal plants can be constructed until the CCS technology is perfected. That would mean either a) such plants would never be built again, which is more likely, or b) I’m wrong and they can be built clean, in which case mining issues remain but at least the climate part is solved. As far as I know, though, the Rockefeller-Voinovich bill does not contain such a provision.
Similarly, I’d be willing to support a DAA-esque law blocking the EPA and maybe even the states from fighting carbon pollution if and only if Congress simultaneously passed a tough climate law of its own. Even if it was slightly weaker than anything the EPA would do, it would at least be less susceptible to Court challenges. But as with CCS, that’s not what Rockefeller has proposed.
For the record, Rockefeller has recieved $278,300 in campaign donations from the mining industry over the course of his career. I’m not sure which ticks me off more: what he is doing to West Virginia as a proponent of Big Coal, or what he could do to the whole planet by bringing back the Dirty Air Act. It’s a shame the man never learned anything from his late West Virginia colleague Robert Byrd.