Murkowski vows Congress will do more to tackle warming

Source: Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2018

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Congress will do more to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, even as the Trump administration spurns climate science and rolls back regulations on planet-warming gases.

“Our emissions have declined in seven of the past 10 years. We’re now 14 percent lower than in 2005,” Murkowski said this morning at National Clean Energy Week’s annual Policy Makers Symposium.

“That’s progress, but of course we know that we need to do more,” she added. “We can and should and will do more.”

In Congress, Murkowski said that means passing bills to prop up renewable energy — particularly nuclear and hydropower — as well as funding energy research programs at the Department of Energy.

For one thing, she hasn’t given up on the sweeping energy reform package that passed the Senate easily but sputtered out before the end of the last Congress.

She introduced a new version of that legislation, S. 1460, with Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) last year, but its future appears bleak in this session.

“We are not there yet,” Murkowski said. “I am one who doesn’t give up easily, and I have continued to urge my colleagues, our leadership to make sure that were doing all that we can within the Congress to really bring our energy policies up to speed.”

But she also touted the hydropower provisions set to pass as part of the water infrastructure reauthorization bill and said she has high hopes for S. 3422, a comprehensive nuclear energy measure she introduced with a group of bipartisan co-sponsors earlier this month.

That legislation would extend the length of federal power purchase agreements from 10 to 40 years, set new advanced nuclear reactor research and development goals at the Department of Energy, and direct DOE to create a 10-year strategic plan for its Office of Nuclear Energy.

“We shouldn’t be sitting back in this area,” Murkowski said. “We have to come up with a set of eminently reasonable policies that will help restore our status as the global leader for this safe, clean and reliable technology.”

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler also highlighted U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reductions at the event this morning, and he argued that his agency’s regulatory rollbacks are an effort to align its policies with the letter of the law, rather than a nefarious attempt to reject climate science (see related story).

Murkowski didn’t address the administration’s moves at EPA, but as it often does with her, the discussion all came down to Alaska.

Climate change is not “a rhetorical conversation” in the Last Frontier, Murkowski said, and the state has the potential to be a “proving ground” for renewable energy in all its forms.

“I am one who will stand before you and tell you that my state is seeing the impacts of a changing climate,” Murkowski said. “We’re on the front lines, some would say, of climate change.”


Murkowski’s comments drew a contrast with Ryan Zinke, who spoke just before her at the event this morning and talked more about oil and gas than climate change.

The Interior secretary touted the administration’s “all of the above” energy rhetoric, with a focus on burgeoning U.S. oil and gas production.

But Zinke also offered a bullish outlook for offshore wind development and a transition to cleaner sources of energy over the next few decades.

Even solar is much more efficient than it was five years ago, Zinke said.

“Clean energy is where we’re all striving to be,” he said.

The only problem with wind, Zinke said, is that “you have to look at it.”