skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Frances Beinecke’s Blog

Murkowski Thinks Polluters Can Police Themselves

Frances Beinecke

Posted June 7, 2010

, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

This Thursday, lawmakers will likely vote on Senator Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to undercut the government’s authority to regulate global warming pollution.

I find it shocking that Senator Murkowski is moving forward with this resolution now--even as oil continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico seven weeks after BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Not only could the resolution prolong our oil addiction by delaying America’s shift to cleaner energy, but it will also undermine one of the government’s most effective tools for holding polluters accountable--the Clean Air Act.

Now is not the time to have faith in polluters’ ability to police themselves. 

Yet despite all of BP’s broken promises about its safety measures and ability to clean up offshore spills, Senator Murkowski thinks we should trust polluters to handle the problem of global warming too. She doesn’t want the EPA to get involved with limiting global warming pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and cars.

Indeed, her resolution would void recent EPA efforts to reduce dangerous pollution, including new standards to cut carbon emissions and improve fuel efficiency for new cars, SUVs, and light trucks--standards that also will save billions of gallons of gasoline.

Murkowski’s resolution would knock the EPA rules of the picture, sacrificing a quarter of the fuel savings expected from standards set together with the Transportation Department.  And that means consumers will buy 19 billion gallons of gasoline and spend around $57 billion at the pump that they wouldn’t have to if the EPA retained its authority.

That may be good for the oil industry, but it’s’ not good for Americans’ health or pocketbooks.

Instead of indulging industry’s desire to dump carbon pollution into the air without limit, Senators should be working on cleaner, safer solutions.

They should pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that retains the EPA’s ability to enforce pollution reductions. This is the most effective way to cut pollution, protect our oceans, and reduce our dependence on oil. 





Share | | |


JimJun 7 2010 12:06 PM

I have all but given up on these poiticians whose only faith is the self serving graft of thievery and pollution. Is there not ONE LEADER among them who still has hearty and soul enough to say NO to the BP's of the World? I hate to say it, but i hope 2012 is true and the Mayan prediction of the wolrd's end. At least the end of the world of the human.

SoniaJun 7 2010 12:12 PM

Save the world from the humans.

Steph MeyersJun 7 2010 02:55 PM

I agree with Jim McKeny &Sonia Tanney it is all on the shoulders of humans . There must be someone out there with some guts to do what is Right for the planet .

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 8 2010 12:34 AM

As the second plane was crashing into the world trade center, at least we had the Secy. of Transportation to order that all planes be grounded.

Now is the time to stop an unfolding disaster.

Next we should establish an office of oil well operation safety and provide it with authority and means to absolutely clamp off any future such disaster without letting it go unabated for, what is it, 45 days now?

Then we can try to find a sane energy policy that recognizes economic reality of our situation, and still tries to establish a constructive leadership position for the world.

Jack StevensJun 8 2010 03:33 AM

I am ashamed to be the same species as politicians such as Murkowski, Palin and Tony Hayward. I second what Jim said, let's hope the end of the world is in 2012. Save us from ourselves.

Marty SmithJun 8 2010 11:40 AM

Anybody who thinks polluters can police themselves are delusional and should be committed. My take on the gulf enviromental disaster is the government and BP are equally at fault. If the tech is not avaiable to plug at these depths why thema permit to drill. BP record is not all that great nor are the others. My oppinion is they have been winging it on luck and BP's luck ran out.

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 8 2010 01:27 PM

Marty, I think you have it right.

BP is the slum landlord that allowed his building to deteriorate, and now it has fallen to ruin, collapsing on the tenants. But now he turns away the fire department, assuring them that he will rescue the tenants, which he proceeds to do, but mostly he carefully saves the fallen beams as he takes them off the dying victims.

Our government is the fire department that says, "Sure, you are best equipped to handle this."

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 8 2010 03:35 PM

No real environmentalist would get interested in an energy policy debate while this spill goes on.

Now we have BP failing to have enough capacity to handle the oil that comes up, so oh my, it will just have to be dumped. Do environmentalists not realize that oil not collected is oil on the beach? Come on NRDC. No administration phone in Washington should stop ringing.

And on top of it all we have Pres. Obama reported as saying that we will reopen offshore drilling very soon, and that there will be stringent safety regulations in place.

No, the Obama administration does not have the slightest capability to regulate anything. They have proven by their handling the oil spill that they have no understanding of oil operations.

The only regulation needed is that there be in place an operations safety office with absolute authority and capability to clamp off any well that gets out of control. Yes, like a fire department that takes over in a disaster. Then let the oil companies handle their operations with that presence in mind. But this will not be operative without some preparation, and some significant input from oil companies is appropriate in setting this up.

John LiffeeJun 8 2010 04:48 PM

So let me get this straight, Jim: as you yourself have observed, BP's priorities — which I've no doubt mirror the entire oil industry's — in an incident like this are cost-cutting, salvage, damage control (to the brand, not the environment). Like Halliburton — and ExxonMobil, Shell, all of Big Oil — BP is a gargantuan transnational corporation that answers to no one but its shareholders. Profit motive is all there is, and usually the next quarterly report wins out over a long-term view. So, all moral judgment aside, BP as a rational actor cares nothing about destroying an ecosystem except insofar as doing so affects its bottom line. I guarantee you that somewhere in the files of BP senior management, there's a memo outlining the risk of a blowout at Deepwater, and a cold-blooded calculation of where to draw the line between minimizing that risk and maximizing profit. They knew exactly what sort of fire they were playing with, and will have done the barest minimum that calculation suggested they could get away with.

And all you want is a "fire department"? Stay out of Big Oil's way until after the damage is done? Regulation is still a bad word?

I don't think so. What's needed is a recognition that without a carrot-and-huge-effin-stick regulatory structure in place to incentivize good behavior — and the will and resources to vigorously enforce the law — it's mere coincidence when the interests of a company like BP match the public interest. Corporations are not people, contrary to the import of that recent Supreme Court ruling Scalia and his fellow idiots managed to get away with. The public's interest is to have enough foresight to restrict the actions of corporations where necessary, in the name of prevention. We need to better prevent, not better react to, disastrously reckless behavior like BP's.

The federal government has its problems but it's there to answer to all of us. It's up to all Americans to insist on repairing the enormous damage that Reagan and the Bushes did to environmental regulation.

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 10 2010 04:05 PM

John Liffee,

I think we are mostly on the same page, except what I failed to adequately convey is that my "fire department" would wield a hammer far heavier than your "f-- stick".

I simply am not very impressed with the capacity of government to regulate, at any kind of detail level, and find it more effective to hold a megaton block of concrete over their head if things go wrong. That would put the people with know-how at an appropriate level of attention.

Our EPA has been notably pathetic throughout this oil spill event. They first focused on bird washing, not noticing that massive quantities of oil floated without fear of being picked up by any vessel of size that could handle such quantities. That is where I got concerned, having heard BP claim "massive over-response", which I tried to find. The missing super tankers that I would have expected as a massive appropriate response got my attention. Then I realized that they did not even realize that the oil continued to gush from the broken mess down below.

"Oh my," said our government, we are leaving that to BP since they are in the best position to handle that part of the problem. "That is too hard for us to think about. And we might have to wait a few months for a relief well to be drilled."

My lack of confidence in detailed regulation by government went to a new low at that point.

Sen. Murkowski does not stir up waves of confidence either. As I understand it, it was her ilk that gave Sarah Palin the opportunity to find righteousness, and take on the establishment on behalf of the populace of Alaska. We all know how that turned out. But I am inclined to give the 'devil her due' when it comes to criticism of leaving the regulation of important things to the EPA.

On the other hand, when it comes to confidence, Congress has not been terribly impressive, as a wise law-making body, lately either.

Enthusiasm wanes -----

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 10 2010 04:24 PM

Jack Stevens,

I have a huge problem with you!!! Your list is not long enough, way way way not.

BP1952, McCarthy, Nixon, Reagan, North, Bush I, Whoopee Clinton, Bush II, Brownee I, Blackwater, BPnow, Murkowski, Palin, Hayward, UK government, Obama, Brownee II, Jackson.

I am hard to please. You have to be well intentioned and capable of appropriate decisiveness to stay off my list. There are a lot of others.

FDR, Winston Churchill and previous Trans. Secy. Norman Mineta are about the only ones I am glad we have had in office.

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 10 2010 04:47 PM

Marty Smith,

I agree with your general conclusion, but there is a little more culpability in this. Uh, a lot more.

Trying to understand this I found a clue listening to the panel discussion at:

Surprisingly, a relatively new Chairman of the Board of BP shows up for the discussion, to the surprise of the others on the panel as well. That is Carl-Henrik Svanberg, as likeable a person as can be found anywhere, and of course, he expressed concern about the spill. A little perplexing was his seeming detachment. Watch it for yourself.

My understanding of how the problem has developed is aided by the panel description of how "innovation" can be made possible in a big corporation. They assert that people can be given much freedom to innovate, but it has to be within a well defined, but succinct framework.

Here is where the giant corporation carrying out dangerous activities might go wrong. The word from the top is that low cost is the absoulute most important objective. We seem to have a lot of confirmation that the BP culture is thus oriented. In such a culture there is no room for contingency planning, preparation of back-up systems, and provision for emergencies.

In short, Marty Smith, you have the right answer. Luck can carry things along quite nicely for a while, in an organization thus structured.

The size of BP enables it to withstand the occassional disaster, so the combination of the culture and the size is a very effective business model. (BP is not alone in this.)

UK and USA governments need to take notice.

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Frances Beinecke’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In