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U.S. Senate should scuttle Murkowski amendment

When the U.S. Forest Service, under its then Chief Dombeck, initiated a study on areas in the national forests that were still un-logged, and keep them so for posterity, the action aroused an outpouring of public support of unprecedented extent. When the Environmental Protection Agency, under order from the Supreme Court a decade later, announced a plan for regulation of the greenhouse gases that are harming the planet and human health, citizens again voiced their support in extraordinary numbers. The Agency, as readers of this column may recall, would require the largest industries to reduce these pollutant emissions to specified lower levels, from old facilities, within five years. For new facilities they might be planning they would need to use the best modern technology available, to keep these emissions low from the start.
As noted, the citizenry overwhelmingly said “Yes” to the plan. One knows, after all, that the Clean Air Act requires the Agency to protect the public from exposure to substances that place its health and the environment at risk. A massive body of scientific research has shown a range of harm from the heat-trapping gases and their clear threat to people and the biological world all around us. But special-interest lobbyists, one learns, are signaling an industry “No” to the plan and, with help from some in the Congress, are moving to derail it.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S. Senator, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) “has proposed an amendment to an unrelated, fast-moving bill” that would prevent the EPA from acting on global warming pollution under the clean-air law. For a member of Congress, one might object, to seek to have the law disobeyed (along with the High Court ruling ordering it to be upheld) is an egregious interference with the constitutional principle of separation of powers — the Congress being the body make the laws, the Executive branch to carry them out, “faithfully” and the Court to enforce their execution, if needed. The amendment strikes at the very heart of the Clean Air Act — its ability, through science and regulation, to protect the public from harmful pollution. This protection, among the blessings of democratic laws, can only be guaranteed if these are carried out “in resolute and fearless fashion,” as President Theodore Roosevelt used to say.
Addressing global warming pollution is the most critical need of our time. The President’s efforts to implement existing law in this regard, in the practical way proposed by the Agency and supported by the public, should not be waylaid in the Congress. As well, to do so would undermine our international credibility, as the President has helped secure, in Copenhagen, important emissions-reduction commitments from all the countries that are the major polluters now, including China and India. Here, too, how true the earlier president’s, Teddy Roosevelt’s words: How can we “ask equity when we do not do equity”?
Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker should be encouraged to vote against the Murkowski amendment, not suggest Tennessee citizens’ support for it.