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Senator Feinstein Applauds Senate Defeat of Senator Murkowski’s Resolution of Disapproval

-Defeated resolution would have invalidated EPA’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution-

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today applauded the Senate’s defeat of a resolution of disapproval offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The Murkowski resolution would have invalidated a scientific determination – called an endangerment finding – issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. Specifically, the Senate voted to defeat a motion to proceed to consideration of the Murkowski resolution by a vote of 53-47.

“The EPA is legally charged with protecting the public's health and welfare from air pollution,” Senator Feinstein said. “Not to do so, in my opinion, is malfeasance.”

Earlier today, Senator Feinstein spoke on the Senate floor to express her opposition to the Murkowski resolution and to discuss the real and serious consequences if the resolution had been approved.

The full text of Senator Feinstein’s remarks, as delivered, follow below:

“This measure, I believe, sets a dangerous precedent by invalidating the endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution. I strongly oppose it and I’d like to make the public health argument.

Now, what is an endangerment finding? Simply put, it’s a scientific determination made by the EPA that an air pollutant endangers the health and welfare of the American people and, therefore, it must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

This came about because of a 2007 case, Massachusetts v. EPA. What the Supreme Court said was that the EPA has an obligation to study the impacts of global warming. 

Specifically, the majority opinion found that:  ‘greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's definition of an air pollutant.’ And it ordered the EPA to comply with the clean air act and make a determination about whether ‘greenhouse gases could reasonably endanger public health or welfare.’

In December 2009, the EPA issued the required final endangerment finding and that: ‘the emission of six gases, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.’

Accordingly, the EPA Administrator has initiated action to curb these emissions in order to protect the health and safety.

Now, many agree – and I happen to concur – that a national cap-and-trade system might be more efficient and less costly than having to regulate them under the Clean Air Act.

Yet the senate has failed time and again to approve climate change legislation. We have dithered while the earth heats.

That means right now, EPA is the only federal agency with the statutory authority to protect the American public’s health and safety from greenhouse gas pollution.

The Murkowski resolution, however, would throw out this endangerment finding. It would stop EPA dead in its tracks. And this would have some real and very serious consequences.

  • First, it would put the Senate on record rejecting scientific analysis of EPA experts;
  • Second, it would block the implementation of a new federal fuel economy program;  and 
  • Third, it would put the United States Senate at odds with a coalition of 115 nations that signed the Copenhagen summit agreement.

The president has threatened to veto this resolution if it passes, and I would support that veto.

The EPA’s endangerment finding says that global warming will have four significant detrimental human health effects.

  • One, more heat waves will mean more heat-related death, which is already the leading cause of weather-related death in our country;
  • Two, increased extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, put human lives at risk. Katrina demonstrated that in tragic fashion; and 
  • Three, ‘a warmer climate will likely result in an increase in the spread of several food and waterborne pathogens,’ including tropical diseases.

Now, finally and most important to the Chairman's state and my state, EPA's endangerment finding states, ‘climate change is expected to increase regional ozone pollution with associated risks in respiratory illnesses and premature death.’

California has two of the worst non-attainment regions in the country: the South Coast basin, including Los Angeles, and the San Joaquin Valley.

Experts tell us, combined, ozone and particulate matter contribute to up to 14,000 deaths and $71 billion in health care costs every year. Roughly 2.5 million Californians suffer from asthma – and it’s increasing – and other air pollution related illnesses. So this is a matter of saving lives. It is a matter of major health concern and welfare, and it should be looked at that way.

If temperatures rise as projected, these two regions of our country could see 75 percent to 85 percent more days with warming-related smog and ozone pollution. This means more asthma, more lung-related disease, more premature death from air pollution.

These scientific observations are not political statements, they are facts established by scientific study after study.  Yet the resolution offered today would reject this evidence.

The EPA is legally charged with protecting the public's health and welfare from air pollution. Not to do so, in my opinion, is malfeasance.

Additionally, the Murkowski resolution would invalidate the federal fuel economy program.

On April 1, the Administration finalized joint standards issued by EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more fondly known as NHTSA – in coordination with the state of California – to require automakers to increase fleet-wide fuel efficiency from the 2008 average of 27 miles per gallon to the equivalent of 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016.

This is important. It's based on the enacted Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, which I authored with Senator Snowe and others. That law requires automakers to increase fleetwide fuel economy at the maximum feasible rate, beginning with 2011 vehicle models.

I’ve been proud and encouraged to see the Administration aggressively implement this program.

Yet, if EPA’s endangerment finding is invalidated by Congress and thrown out, it would mean that the federal fuel economy program would collapse. That would be the result.

If that happens, California and 14 other states are required to enforce their respective state law regulating tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions standards.

According to the auto industry, this would re-impose the ‘patchwork of regulation’ they have argued against for many years. This would be a major setback.

EPA Administrator Jackson has written that Senator Murkowski’s resolution would ‘undo the historic agreement among states, automakers, the federal government and other stakeholders leaving the automobile industry without explicit nationwide uniformity that it has described as important to its business.’

The state environment commissioners from nine states have written to Congress to explain that they prefer a national approach, but they will enforce their state statutes as long as the federal government refuses to act. So the effect of the Murkowski amendment will be to encourage a state-by-state variation of regulation. Not good.

The EPA is the agency we have charged to protect our children and our environment from harmful air quality. EPA is moving forward slowly and carefully to address this issue. And its proposed rules would apply only to the very largest sources until 2016, six years from now.

If we in the Senate don't like EPA’s proposal, we should pass a climate change bill. But the one thing we should absolutely not do is deny the existence of a problem that scientists say is severely dangerous to our planet.

Thank you.”