NEW ANALYSIS: U.S. Senate Proposal Would Increase Maine’s Oil Dependence by 2 Million Gallons, Cost Consumers $6 Million

U.S. Senate to Vote Thursday on Murkowski Resolution as Gulf Oil Disaster Continues

Environment Maine

Portland, Maine —As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico and just a day before a major U.S. Senate vote on legislation that would block new rules requiring cars and light trucks to use less oil, a new analysis finds that the proposed Senate measure would increase Maine’s dependence on oil by more than 2 million gallons in 2016.  The binding resolution, introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, also would cost Mainers $6 million at the gas pump in 2016.  The impacts would be even greater over time.

“This bill is yet another Washington bailout for Big Oil and other polluters.  With the oil disaster in the Gulf wreaking havoc on people’s livelihoods and the environment, we need to end America’s dependence on oil, not make the problem worse,” said Paul Burns of Environment Maine.

The Senate will vote Thursday, June 10, on Senator Murkowski’s Congressional Review Act resolution (S.J.R. 26), which would block key policies to reduce America’s dependence on oil and other fossil fuels, including the historic clean cars standards finalized earlier this year. 

“Our dependence on foreign sources of energy has driven our foreign policy for more than 40 years.  We need to invest in the technology that will end the cycle and move America toward energy independence,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, an Iraq War veteran with Truman National Security Project and Operation Free. “America’s dependence on oil hurts our economy, finances our enemies, and threatens our national security.  This dangerous bill would increase America’s oil dependence, moving us in exactly the wrong direction.”

On April 1, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation finalized a joint rule to decrease the fuel consumption of Model Year 2012-2016 cars and light trucks sold in the United States.  But, if Senator Murkowski’s resolution were enacted, EPA would have to rescind its standard, forfeiting one-quarter of the joint rule’s oil savings – 455 million barrels of oil nationally over the lifetimes of those vehicles – according to the EPA.  

Moreover, the resolution would prohibit the EPA from setting similar standards for big trucks and buses and post-2016 passenger vehicles – actions President Obama announced on May 21 in the Rose Garden and which could cut America’s oil use by billions of additional barrels.

Environment Maine’s analysis examines the state-by-state impacts of blocking EPA’s Model Year 2012-2016 clean cars standard.  Since the analysis is limited to the impacts of blocking this one standard, the results underestimate the effect of the resolution on oil use and consumer costs.  In Maine, the resolution would:

• Increase Maine’s dependence on oil by more than 2 million gallons in 2016.  

• Cost Mainers $6 million at the gas pump in 2016, assuming gas costs the same as it does today.

“This bailout would increase Maine’s oil dependence and give Big Oil millions that belong in Mainers’ pocketbooks,” said Burns. 

Senator Murkowski is the # 3 recipient in Congress of money from Big Oil and the #2 recipient of money from electric utilities so far this election cycle.  Her resolution is backed by Big Oil and other polluters and opposed by national security organizations and veterans, the UAW, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, former Republican EPA Administrator Russell Train, American Academy of Pediatrics, thousands of scientists, environmental organizations, and governors, attorneys general, and top environmental officials of numerous states, including Gov. Baldacci. 

EPA would have to rescind its clean cars standards because the Murkowski resolution would veto EPA’s scientific finding that global warming pollutants endanger human health and the environment – a prerequisite for any and all Clean Air Act rules to reduce the pollution from cars and other sources.  

“I am very concerned that the Murkowski proposal would overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s Endangerment Finding on greenhouse gas emissions. Overturning the Endangerment Finding would severely limit the agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases and lead to the collapse of the historic agreement that created the One National Program for regulating fuel efficiency standards for cars and light duty vehicles. I understand the concerns about EPA regulating industries under the Clean Air Act, but those concerns are better addressed by the Senate moving forward with comprehensive clean energy and climate change legislation.  The Murkowski proposal moves us in the wrong direction” said Adam Lee, President of Lee Auto Malls. 

“This bill is an unprecedented attack on the Clean Air Act protections championed By Maine’s Senator Muskie.  The Clean Air Act has cost-effectively cut dangerous pollution to safeguard our health and environment in Maine for 40 years, while also driving technological innovation,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Deputy Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

The Congressional Review Act is a rarely used law that provides Congress expedited procedures to void agency rules.  Senator Murkowski needs just a majority vote to pass her resolution.  

Maine’s public health advocacy community also expressed concerns that the Murkowski proposal could severely weaken the Clean Air Act and effect the health of Maine families. “The health concerns are significant, for Maine, for our country and for the world.  We at the Maine Medical Association view the Murkowski amendment as an attack on the Clean Air Act that would threaten public health and interfere with the essential push for comprehensive climate legislation currently underway,” stated Norma Dreyfus, MD, Co-Chair of the Maine Medical Association’s Public Health Committee.

“Given the leadership that Senators Snowe and Collins have provided on climate and clean energy issues, one would assume that they would oppose this amendment.  However, the position of Maine’s senators remains uncertain, said Pohmann. “We strongly urge Senators Collins and Snowe to oppose this Big Oil Bailout.  The Senate should defeat it and act swiftly to lessen the extensive damage caused in the Gulf, cut America’s oil dependence, create jobs that provide us with us clean and efficient energy supplies, and cap climate changing pollution,” concluded Pohlmann. “