Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy is among a group of Democratic senators unveiling a climate change task force on Tuesday. Its goal, he said, is to combat what he called “Republican intransigence” on issues related to climate change.
“I don’t think it’s right to oversell what our group is going to be able to get done when we can’t muster 60 votes for a climate change bill in the Senate and have no chance of Speaker (John) Boehner taking any initiative in the House,” Murphy said. “But there’s still a lot of other really important work to organize around, not the least of which is supporting the president in the work he’s going to do to implement new emissions standards for power plants.”
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules for new plants; a Feb 6 hearing is planned on them.
As part of an effort to update emissions rules for existing power plants, which are a federal-state partnership, the EPA is conducting 11 sessions around the country.
Murphy said he expected the Republican campaign against the rules to be relentless. “So we have to be the leading edge of a national campaign to explain to people why these standards are significant and vitally necessary,” he said.
The federal Department of Energy Monday issued a preliminary 2013 assessment that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions likely were 2 percent higher in 2013 than in 2012, attributing the rise to an increased use of coal.
Emissions, however, are still 10 percent below 2005 levels. The Obama administration has set a goal of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
“The holy grail of federal climate policy has to be a re-setting of the market for the dirty sources,” Murphy said. “That means either a carbon tax or an air-tight cap-and-trade regime.” He pointed to the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast that Connecticut already participates in.
The Senate group is spearheaded by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who is also on the committee. Murphy is not a member of that committee.