Post Carbon: Murkowski and her lobbyist allies
Monday, January 11, 2010; 4:04 PM
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is likely to postpone offering an amendment next week that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The delay would give Democrats a little bit of breathing space on the politically sensitive issue of whether the Obama administration can take the lead on curbing greenhouse gases if Congress fails to act this year. Murkowski first attempted to offer the measure back in September, but as part of a leadership deal between the two parties, she had postponed the move until Jan. 20.
The maneuvering comes as The Washington Post has confirmed that two Washington lobbyists, Jeffrey R. Holmstead and Roger R. Martella, Jr., helped craft the original amendment Murkowski planned to offer on the floor last fall. Both Holmstead, who heads the Environmental Strategies Group and Bracewell & Guiliani, and Martella, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, held senior posts at EPA under the Bush administration and represent multiple clients with an interest in climate legislation pending before Congress.
In an interview, Holmstead said of the Murkowski amendment, "I certainly worked with her staff" on the exact phrasing of the measure in September.
"I was involved," he said, adding that Martella also helped advise Murkowski's aides on the matter. "The line out of the White House and the administration was that the amendment would block the car and truck rule" setting the first-ever greenhouse gas limits on emissions from vehicles, which are set to become final in March.
Holmstead represents industry interests including Southern Company, Duke Energy, Progress Energy and the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council on climate matters, according to congressional lobbying registration forms, while Martella represents the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the Alliance of Food Associations on the same subject.
Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said the senator, who is set to return from Afghanistan Monday, has not made a final decision on whether to offer her amendment on Jan. 20, but her staff is presenting her with multiple options.
Some Republicans are worried the Democrats will offer a second-degree amendment to the measure which would codify the Obama administration's effort to limit any future greenhouse gas limits to facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.
"The possibility of a second-degree amendment plays into our consideration into how to advance the EPA issue," Dillon said.
He confirmed that both Holmstead and Martella helped with the EPA amendment, but added, "Senator Murkowski and her staff write all of her amendments."
"What they offered was technical assistance," Dillon saidm, adding the senator solicited feedback from the EPA and Senate Democrats as well.
Emily Figdor, who directs the federal global warming program at the advocacy group Environment America, said the fact that Murkowski continues to explore different legislative options shows the uphill battle she faces in attacking EPA's Clean Air Act authority.
"Striking at the heart of the Clean Air Act isn't a popular thing to do," said Figdor, adding that as of last month Murkowski ranked as the top congressional recipient of donations from electric utilities.
And Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said, "It's not a total shock that ex-Bush administration officials are ghostwriting for Murkowski on climate, though she ought to come clean and admit it so we can understand that big polluters are behind her initiative."