Pandering, Politics and Slow Motion Disasters

As WC has noted before, he has extremely low expectations for Alaska politicians. But, as hard as it may be to accomplish, Alaska’s delegation to the U.S. Senate consistently manages to sink even lower than WC’s sub-basement level hopes.

The recent vote on a measure aimed at blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change regulations for power plants would be a prime example. The short version of the EPA action is that the EPA will be exercising its U.S. Supreme Court-approved legal authority to regulate CO2 emissions by electric power plants, specifically coal-fired power plants. Over a period of years – too many years, in WC’s opinion, but that’s not the issue – the EPA regulations would require those power plants to significantly reduce total CO2 emissions. The EPA is acting, of course, because Congress can’t or won’t. The chair of the U.S. Senate Committee with jurisdiction is a climate change denier. But the Senate did muster the will to recast the issue as “federal overreach” and both Senator Lisa Mrkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan voted to block the EPA action.

A brief digression: why did the U.S. Supreme Court conclude the EPA has jurisdiction to regulate CO2? Because Congress gave the EPA that authority. This is an issue of statutory interpretation. Congress could fix that. But, of course, it is incapable of doing anything more controversial than naming post offices except in the face of an incipient disaster. End of digression.

Anthropogenic climate change is as real as a heart attack. Unless the Koch Brothers have bought your small, mean political soul, and you passed high school physics, you know that. CO2 is overwhelmingly the biggest contributor to anthropogenic climate change. Reducing CO2 emissions is absolutely necessary. Even the world’s largest oil company, Exxon Mobil, admits that. It is blindingly obvious that something has to be done. Congress has failed to act. Is the EPA supposed to wait until rising ocean levels have drowned our coastal cities? Until Hurricane Sandy-level events are the norm from warmer oceans and moisture-saturated air?

And the man-caused warming is hitting polar regions first and hardest. That would include Alaska. Newtok, Kivalina, Emmonak, Galena, and Teller. All are Alaska villages in immediate danger of washing away as ice melts, storms worsen and erosion continues. Alaska is warming at a rate two to three times faster than the mainland United States, and the average winter temperature in Alaska has risen 6.3 degrees over the past 50 years. These are facts, not opinions. Stubborn, irrebuttable facts. Are Senators Murkowski and Sullivan telling the citizens of Newtok that the 100 feet of river bank eroding away each year is all in their imagination?

So what, if anything, are Alaska’s two citizens doing about this? Well, Senator Sullivan denies it is happening, and Senator Murkowski waffles about it. And both voted against a completely lawful EPA regulation that would help reduce the CO2 that is to blame. Not because it wouldn’t work. No, because, they claim, it is “federal overreach.” Even though the EPA is exercising authority granted to the EPA by – wait for it – Congress. Even though folks who claim the EPA doesn’t have regulatory authority over CO2 litigated the issue all the way to U.S. Supreme Court. And lost.

How can it be “federal overreach” and a usurpation of Congressional power when it’s authorized by Congress?

It’s much more likely that it is “federal overreach” because the Koch Brothers don’t like it.

WC invites the Senators to travel to, say, Kivalina, or Newtok, and give their explanation there.