McMorris Rodger’s methane vote–business v. climate
|Jerry LeClaireJul 12|
U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CD5, eastern Washington) wants all moderate and independent voters to believe that she is a thoughtful protector of the environment, that she understands the threat of climate change and is working hard to ameliorate its effects in our region. Just ask her. She will pivot to her support of hydroelectric power so swiftly your head will spin. On her website she posts statements like her plan to “Expand domestic energy supplies and explore alternative energy sources.” Wildfires fueled by climate change? She is quick with statements about the need for forest cleanup, but not a peep about climate change. To be fair, McMorris Rodgers might acknowledge that the climate is warming, but, if pressed hard for an answer as to the cause, she will tell you the “science is unsettled”.
Once upon a time I believed that the folks we send to represent us at all levels of government were privy to information I was not, that they would use that information to vote wisely on the issues before them. In short, I trusted them, once elected to office, whether Republican or Democrat, to represent my interests and the best interests of the country.
Politicians work hard to promote trust that they are wiser than we are, deep thinkers who consider all the facts. Words are carefully chosen. “Clean energy” and “alternative energy sources” glide off their tongues so freely you could almost imagine they understood the origin of climate change and were acting accordingly. You will not hear McMorris Rodgers say that global warming is a hoax. That would be too direct. Instead, she will sidestep in the same manner as she did a direct question about geologic time, hiding her lack of scientific literacy.
There is no more glaring example of McMorris Rodgers’ (or the Republican Party’s) denial of science than a recent vote concerning methane. Yes, methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, the carbon-based gas mined by the petroleum industry and shipped around the globe in huge tankers as LNG, liquified natural gas. Right wing pundits like the late Rush Limbaugh tried hard to convince their listeners that methane only comes from the intestines of cows and other ruminants—thereby making a serious subject laughable, a useful pivot from the facts.
Methane is a major greenhouse gas. Its release into the atmosphere is responsible for about a third of the global warming we now experience. Roughly a quarter of methane release occurs in the process of petroleum and gas extraction. (Some of that methane, instead of escaping into the atmosphere, gets burned and goes into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and water. That is the “flaring” one sees at oil refineries and in some petroleum and gas fields.)
For decades the petroleum industry has touted natural gas (methane) as a “clean” alternative to other carbon fuels, while conveniently ignoring the methane escape into the atmosphere that occurs during petroleum fuel extraction. If methane can be sold as a fuel and it is harmful to the atmosphere, why, one might ask, why isn’t the industry diligent in capturing methane and selling it? Money and profits is the answer. Releasing methane into the atmosphere at oil well heads is cheaper than the infrastructure necessary to capture and sell it at current prices. It is also cheaper to abandon a low producing well that continues to emit methane than it is to properly cap it. Even a far right news source like Newsmax Finance acknowledges this.
Under the Obama administration the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listened to the science and set common sense rules for the petroleum industry to require monitoring and reduction of methane emissions. Under the Trump administration’s pro-fossil fuel, anti-climate science regime, the EPA finalized a rule change in August of 2020 reversing the Obama era rules.
Up to last August McMorris Rodgers faced no vote concerning methane. The rules and the reversal were all undertaken under the power of the executive branch of government, specifically the EPA. McMorris Rodgers could go on murmuring about clean hydropower and “exploring alternative energy sources” and ducking questions about the science of global warming, always trying to leave the impression of studied concern.
However, on June 25, 2021 a roll call vote was taken in the House of Representatives on S.J.Res. 14, which would throw out the Trump EPA rules and revert to Obama era regulation of methane:
S.J.Res.14 – A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review”.
McMorris Rodgers, along with 190 other Republicans, voted “Nay.” (Eight Republicans did not vote.) Every Democrat who voted (two did not vote) and 12 Republicans voted “Yea.” The bill passed the House 229 to 191. McMorris Rodgers even gave an impassioned speech on the House floor in which she argued against methane regulations as unnecessary. She totally ignored climate science, railing instead on consumer prices and energy independence.
S.J.Res. 14 had already passed the Senate on April 28, 2021 by a vote of 52 to 46. (CRA rules in the Senate avoided the filibuster that Republicans most certainly would have raised if, under the rules, they could have. See P.S.) President Biden signed S.J.Res. 14 into law on June 30, 2021, re-instating the methane emission regulations of the Obama EPA.
McMorris Rodgers is a creature of big business in general and the fossil fuel companies in particular. Her vote on S.J.Res. 14 is a clear denial of the science of global warming. Lacking any science background, she has no basis from which to comprehend even the basic physics of greenhouse gases. She is opposed to all regulation imposed by government even if it is clearly in the best interest of the country and world. All regulation is a threat to progress (unless it benefits her or her offspring—see The ADA…).
McMorris Rodgers is incapable of considering climate change as an issue that must be addressed. Re-electing this woman in 2022 is a threat to our children, our grandchildren, and the world we live in.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Bills brought to the Senate under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) cannot be filibustered. That is the rule passed passed by Congress as part of the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 pushed by Newt Gingrich. The CRA lay like a landmine for 16 years (with one exception) until Republicans under the Trump administration, lacking a 60 vote majority in the Senate, used it fourteen times to roll back late Obama era regulations (see the list above). The Biden administration has used it three times.
P.P.S. We will all be pardoned if we missed the significance of McMorris Rodgers vote and missed her speech on the topic. The issue was poorly covered in the media probably because story was so complicated. A rule by the Obama EPA regarding a gas (methane) some had never heard of (even if they burn it daily in their stoves and furnaces), a Trump EPA rule overturning the Obama EPA rule, and a law under the Biden administration using the CRA that overturned the overturning. That is the sometimes arcane manner in which government works—and the reason that Representatives like McMorris Rodgers can pretend she is paying attention to science and working in our best interest.