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Dear Senator Webb: It isn’t the “Murky Air Act”

January 16th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Dear Senator Webb,

I have been extremely disappointed in your stances on energy and environmental issues, especially when it comes to climate change.

Let me provide background for a moment. I have long respected you, your thoughtfulness, and your career achievements. I was involved with the Draft Webb movement. During the general election race, I created a backgrounder as to your biography (entirely independent of your campaign or any party/organizational activity), printed it out 10,000 copies (on my own computer, own cost), and (often with my children helping — their choice) distributed this. At Dulles airport, more than once, I put a copy on windshields of 100s of cars in the parking lot. While I never expected to agree 100% with you, I worked hard to help get you elected due to my respect for your intellect, thoughtfulness, and dedication to quality/ethical public service. I have no doubt that it was the dedication and hard efforts of 100s (1000s) of Virginians like myself that helped put you over the hump to get elected.

And, again, I am incredibly disappointed at your words and actions in the clean energy and climate arenas.

The science is clear. Climate Change is a very serious risk that, quite literally, is growing more serious every day. There are quite clear national security implications (from increased instability due to climate chaos to refugees to …), there are serious economic implications, etc …

And, there is good news: acting seriously to mitigate climate change is not just an insurance policy, but will provide quite serious benefits across all domains. As the Commandant of the Marine Corps understands clearly, Energy efficient military forces are more operationally effective and less expensive while reducing pollution. The same is true for energy efficiency in homes and businesses. Clean energy creates more employment per dollar invested and kilowatt produced than polluting options, there is a reason why there is great value to Clean Energy Jobs.

Reducing fossil fuel use will not just reduce climate change’s impacts but also will have direct benefits to Americans’ health, with strong resulting economic benefits from cutting these health impacts.

Etc …

And, your (no, our) Commonwealth of Virginia is seriously threatened due to climate change. Do you really want to see beach areas like Sandbridge disappear in the our or our children’s lifetimes due to rising seas? Do you believe that mountain top removal and more coal burning offers a better future than investing in our future with energy efficiency (”negawatts” and “negagallons”), renewable energy (like offshore wind and biomass), and exploiting/building on Virginia’s low-carbon energy infrastructure?

I have no question that you have the intellectual capacity to understand these system-of-system impacts and benefits. Yet, I do not see that you are applying that intellect to understanding what might be the greatest threat to American (and Americans’ and Virginians’) security, prosperity, and future prospects.

In the face of this, the “rumor” is that you have agreed to co-sponsor an amendment, written and driven by fossil-fuel industry lobbyists, that Senator Murkowski has introduced to strip Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

The CAA has been not just one of the greatest pieces of legislation, effective at reducing pollution, but it also has been far less expensive in direct implementation costs than predicted by industry when being legislated with far greater benefits (reduced health care costs, improved economic productivity (healthier workers, cleaner water, etc …) than predicted by even its strongest supporters. Perhaps this is time to take a lesson from this experience?

I implore you not to side with those who are actively working to prevent serious action to mitigate climate change.

Climate change is a serious threat. Addressing it, while necessary to reduce the threat, also offers tremendous opportunity. I implore you to fight to seize that opportunity rather than siding with those who are fighting mightily to leave the threat unaddressed.


Note that, on this, Senator Webb might be taking a position at odds with all of the Members of the Democratic Caucus on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who joined together to oppose a proposal by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) global warming endangerment finding.

He also might be taking a stance against Senator Reid’s strong opposition to this Amendment.

And, well, a stance at odds with that of essentially every environmental and clean energy organization.

Vice President Al Gore sent out a message, via RePower America, highlighting the seriousness of this effort.

It’s an outrage. 2010 should start in a way that reflects our movement’s amazing accomplishments from last year — moving the ball forward to passage of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. Instead, our elected leaders are proposing policies that would set us back decades and let the worst polluters completely off the hook.

Despite the chorus of alarm bells sounding the need to address the climate crisis and stop polluting the air our families breathe and the water we drink, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and her allies are attacking the Clean Air Act — for the second time in six months.


In 2010, our movement to solve the climate crisis will face its biggest test yet — passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. But if Senator Murkowski’s amendment passes, some in Congress will use it as an excuse to keep stalling — and the long overdue promise of progress toward a 21st century clean energy economy will be lost.

The Vice President called on people to contact their Senators, calling for defense of the Clean Air Act.  My note to my Senators:

The Clean Air Act has been one of the most successful legislative achievements in protecting our health and our environment. I remember days where I could barely see across an Appalachia valley due to smog. The vistas are now much better.  And, the CAA has successfully improved the health of Americans by reducing the risks of smog and other pollutants.

Excessive human CO2 emissions are perhaps the most serious threat to the future strength, security, and prosperity of America and Americans.  Scientific research conclusively supports this conclusion. The Supreme Court, a conservative Supreme Court, has determined that the EPA is required to act on CO2 under the CAA.  I urge you to support strengthening the CAA and to stand, firmly, in defense of the EPA’s ability to begin the control of harmful carbon pollution under CAA guidelines.

There are many other groups and organizations mounting up efforts to bring visibility and pressure on this. For example, MoveOn

A new sneak attack in the Senate could block much of the progress President Obama’s made on global warming and force him to adopt President Bush’s climate policy. … an oil-state Republican senator has arranged a vote next week to block the Clean Air Act–and we could lose. That would be a crippling blow to progress on climate and clean energy. We can’t let that happen.

And  Greenpeace

We can’t let polluting industries lock us in to several more years of dirty fossil fuels. We need to be moving forward with strong policies to stop global warming and kickstart an energy revolution. Write to your Senator now and urge them to vote against Murkowski’s big polluter amendment.

UPDATE:  See The Green Miles, Will Webb Join Effort to Gut Clean Air Act?

Tags: Congress · Energy · carbon dioxide · catastrophic climate change · clean energy jobs · climate change · government energy policy · politics

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