Highlight of the Week: Lobbyist Scrutiny Casts Doubt on Murkowski Amendment

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) may delay an amendment that would strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon pollution after it was reported that lobbyists had helped craft it.

The Washington Post confirmed last week that lobbyists and former Bush-era EPA members Jeffrey R. Holmstead, of the Environmental Strategies Group and Bracewell & Giuliani, and Roger R. Martella, Jr., of Sidley Austin LLP, helped draft Sen. Murkowski's amendment to a bill to lift the debt ceiling. The amendment would remove the authority of the agency to curb harmful atmospheric pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane under the Clean Air Act. Holmstead and Martella each represent interests that may stand to gain from diminished environmental oversight.

"It's a highly political move, and a highly hazardous one to our health and the environment," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) of the proposed amendment. "If this senator succeeds, it could keep Congress from working constructively in a bipartisan manner to pass clean energy legislation this year. That's why I will work hard to defeat this misguided amendment."

The Murkowski amendment, which would effectively block agency action based on last month's formal endangerment finding that key greenhouse gas emissions threaten public welfare, serves as the most potent example yet of the hard-charging dirty energy industry's push to handcuff the EPA while the U.S. Senate idles.

Sen. Murkowski is already among Congress' top recipients of big oil and electric utilities money, and the latest wrinkle only casts further doubts on her motives. Her home state, Alaska, has been called the 'poster state' for global warming effects and a bellwether for the climate consequences that may hit the lower 48 states if emissions continue unchecked.

Published: January 21, 2010