Climate Peacocks show their feathers

CLIMATE PEACOCKS SHOW THEIR FEATHERS…. In early June, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) worked with oil company lobbyists to craft a misguided scheme. Realizing that the Environmental Protection Agency has the still-unused authority to regulate carbon emissions through the Clean Air Act, the plan was to strip the EPA of its authority to act.

It needed 51 votes to pass, but came up with 47. (The result, at the time, made clear that a meaningful climate bill would probably be impossible in this Congress.)

Murkowski’s scheme failed, but the idea behind the effort hasn’t gone away.

Coal-state Democrats, led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.), Reps. Rick Boucher (Va.) and Nick Rahall (W. Va), are trying to limit the federal government’s ability to control greenhouse gases from power plants.

The coal-state proposals, which would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority for two years, would undercut what is widely seen as Obama’s alternative climate policy, now that Congress has punted on cap-and-trade legislation for the year…. Rockefeller’s bill is expected to reach the Senate floor at some point this year.

In a press release on Friday, Rockefeller said he was “continuing to push hard” for his legislation to suspend the EPA regulations “so that Congress, not federal regulators, can set national energy policy.”

For the senators most hostile to combating global warming, this is one of the more common arguments. The EPA shouldn’t intervene to regulate carbon emissions, the pitch goes, because it should be lawmakers’ job.

And while that argument might appear sensible, it’s hard to overstate how shallow it is. “Congress, not federal regulators, should set national energy policy”? Well, sure. But what happens when Congress won’t, or can’t, act? Rockefeller, in particular, has fought any effort to limit carbon emissions, helping bring the legislative process on the Hill to a halt. Now he wants the EPA to wait for Congress to do its job? Rockefeller is the one who doesn’t want Congress to do its job.

This isn’t complicated — the easiest way to block the EPA from acting is for Congress to pass a real energy/climate bill. But those most opposed to the EPA route also happen to be the ones most opposed to congressional action. It makes plain the motivations at play — this isn’t about where regulatory power should lie; it’s about killing any and all efforts to deal with the climate crisis.

Of course, it’s not just Rockefeller. Indeed, most of the Republicans in the Senate have made the exact same argument, for the exact same reasons. The group has come to be known as “Climate Peacocks” — they strut around, claiming to be serious about finding a solution, but like the “Deficit Peacocks,” it’s little more than an insincere charade.

If Rockefeller’s measure, which may come up for a vote before year’s end, should somehow pass, President Obama has already made clear his intention to veto it. If Republicans take the congressional majority, the effort is certain to be a major fight next year.