FALMOUTH – On July 24, The Portland Press Herald published an article with the headline, “Lack of climate-change bill disappoints Maine senators.”

The article appropriately referred to positive steps on climate legislation taken by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, but omitted disappointing aspects of their records.

Neither senator supported the climate and energy bill with the best chance of passing the Senate — the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act (APA).

The APA is similar to climate and energy legislation already passed by the House. It would reduce U.S. carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

An independent analysis by the respected Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the APA would generate $41 billion in new investment between 2011 and 2030.

Their analysis also found the bill would create an average of 203,000 new jobs each year in its first decade. There would be modest increases in household costs for fossil fuels and electricity under the APA, but they would be largely offset by energy efficiency improvements and household rebates, according to the Peterson Institute.

Both senators also voted in June for the Murkowski Resolution, which would have overturned the EPA’s finding, based on science, that greenhouse gases are causing climate change and threatening public health and the environment.

It would have effectively stripped the EPA of authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — the main federal law currently in place to do so.

It is true that both senators have been constructively engaged in the climate debate, unlike most Republican senators. Sen. Collins has introduced legislation, the CLEAR Act, with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., that would place a declining economy-wide cap on carbon emissions. To my knowledge, she is the only GOP senator currently supporting such a cap.

And Sen. Snowe recently expressed support for, and worked for, a national declining emissions cap that would apply only to the utility sector (similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative here in the Northeast).

Nevertheless, what is really needed is passage of a bill that initiates sustained, economy-wide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Approval of the APA by the Senate would do that, and would also provide the nation with the credibility to lead international climate negotiations at the major environmental world conference in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

We hear from the Senate leadership and the media that climate change legislation is dead. Nevertheless, this issue isn’t going away. Large-scale agriculture and our global economy developed during a relatively stable climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

That stability is in the process of being undermined, largely because of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. According to a recent National Research Council report, the science clearly shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide is now significantly higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

Our climate is already beginning to shift, which will present us with increasingly serious economic and environmental challenges. It is time for Sens. Snowe and Collins, the Senate as a whole and President Obama to think about our future and act decisively.


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