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David Doniger’s Blog

Stabenow Amendment Stops Vital Carbon Safeguards

David Doniger

Posted March 30, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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Updated March 31:  On Wednesday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) filed another version of her amendment to the small business bill to block EPA from curbing dangerous carbon pollution (#277).  I've revised this post to account for the changes.  Here’s a rundown on the harm the current amendment would do.

  • The Stabenow amendment says that no carbon pollution requirements (other than motor vehicle standards) will be “legally effective” for two years.  History shows that once enacted, delays are easily extended for many years.  So like the Rockefeller amendment, the Stabenow amendment is a tactic for effectively repealing EPA’s authority to set carbon pollution safeguards for most industries. 
  • The amendment would block EPA from implementing carbon pollution performance standards for GHG emissions power plants and oil refineries, which EPA plans to issue by 2012.  These are the two biggest industrial sources of carbon pollution – power plants spew out 2.4 billion tons of CO2 per year, and refineries emit another 200 million tons.  Compliance with these standards would be stopped indefinitely if the amendment is extended.
  • The amendment would block the Clean Air Act’s common sense requirement that someone – usually the state but EPA as a last resort – reviews what the biggest new or expanded plants can reasonably do to reduce their carbon pollution and puts achievable and affordable pollution limits into each plant’s construction permit.  This is nothing different from what big new plants have done for decades for other pollutants.  Carbon pollution reviews began in January and have been working smoothly.  But the amendment would call that to a halt, and indefinitely if extended.
  • The amendment would “cook the books” by permanently excluding carbon emissions from agriculture and land-use-change (i.e., forest clearing) from the calculation of a source’s pollution levels.  So that means ignoring all the carbon emissions from chopping down thousands of acres of forest to burn it in a power plant.  It just denies the science to pretend you can chop down forests without causing massive carbon pollution.  This Enron-style accounting could affect other parts of the Clean Air Act, such as the renewable fuels program.
  • The revised amendment would still block carbon emissions monitoring and reporting requirements, because those requirements would become not "legally effective."  Power plants have had to report their CO2 emissions for more than 15 years.  And other big industries had to monitor their carbon emissions starting in 2010, with reports due later this year.  Because these sensible monitoring requirements would become legally ineffective, we won’t know how much pollution industry is producing. 

These are all reasons why the Stabenow amendment even as amended will harm Americans’ health and should be rejected.

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