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For Immediate Release, November 6, 2009

Contact: Bill Snape, (202) 536-9351

Center for Biological Diversity Statement on Senate Climate Bill

TUCSON, Ariz.— Capping a week in which the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee overwhelmingly passed a weak global warming bill with no Republican support, Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling issued the following statement:

“It is a sad day when the lead environmental committee in the Senate passes a bill (S. 1733) that contains pollution-reduction goals far less than scientists tell us are necessary to stem global warming and avert catastrophe. It is even more distressing that this bill contains Clean Air Act exemptions that will eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s longstanding duty to reduce greenhouse pollutants based on scientific standards. This is not a time to cheer. The fossil-fuel industry has received what it wants and will now seek more.

There are three fundamental problems with the Senate bill.

First, by requiring only a 20-percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, the bill sets a standard far below what scientists have identified as necessary to stop global warming and ocean acidification. The standard is also far below what most European nations have agreed to and hope to win world agreement on in Copenhagen in December.

Emission scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicate that the United States must reduce emissions 45 percent or more below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to stabilize the atmosphere at a safe level of 350 parts per million or below. The Senate bill contains no bottom-line atmospheric target. Its emission standards will allow already damaging levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to increase to levels approaching approximately 600 parts per million.

Second, bowing to pressure from conservative Democrats and Republicans, the bill bans federal scientists from determining the safe level of greenhouse gas concentrations. Currently the Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to convene a scientific plan to determine the “National Ambient Air Quality Standard” for air pollutants, including carbon dioxide when the agency completes its endangerment finding. Just such a scientific standard is needed by Congress and the administration as they craft greenhouse gas legislation and regulations. How can you determine the necessary level of emission reductions if you don’t first know what the safe level is?

The National Ambient Air Quality Standard is the one and only provision in U.S. environmental law that can provide the scientific standard critically missing from the House and Senate bills and all regulatory processes. Thus it is unconscionable that the Senate bill is not only flying blind, but also seeks to eliminate the one-and-only process that will shed scientific light on emission targets.

Third, the bill’s offset provisions are so vast and poor that they undermine even its modest emission-reduction goals. Economists have determined that many industries will invest in dubious offsets instead of reducing their carbon emissions.

The political climate in Washington, D.C., is failing the very real, physical climate of places like Arizona and Alaska, which have already changed for the worse. Our elected leaders need to fix the problem, not apply false band-aids. Millions of people have already signed letters and petitions and taken action seeking science-based solutions. We call on the Senate leadership to fix the grave problems in the current bill and present Americans with a bill that will actually stop global warming. Anything less than that is unacceptable.”

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