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Published June 10 2010

North Dakota, Minnesota Democrats oppose energy amendment

Minnesota’s and North Dakota’s Democratic senators say they will vote today in opposition of a controversial amendment to the Clean Air Act that’s being crafted in Congress.

Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan each said Wednesday they will cast “no” votes when the so-called Murkowski Amendment goes to the Senate floor today.

The amendment, sponsored by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, seeks to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from making its own rules on greenhouse gas emissions.

Dorgan and Conrad, instead, said they support different legislation – which they’re both co-sponsoring – that would prohibit the EPA from taking action on greenhouse gases for at least the next two years.

“Everybody agrees on the goal – that Congress should be making the judgments, not the EPA,” Dorgan said.

The difference, though, is the Murkowski Amendment goes beyond restricting the EPA and goes as far as nullifying the EPA’s scientific findings about dangers to the climate, Dorgan and Conrad said.

“The best course forward on regulating carbon emissions is through congressional action,” Franken said in a statement. “But I don’t think we should be legislating to repeal scientific findings, or prevent the EPA from doing what the Clean Air Act calls for – especially before Congress passes a bill.”

Klobuchar echoed Franken’s statement.

Leading up to today’s expected vote in the Senate, the issue has sparked vocal opposition locally from clean energy advocates.

Radio advertisements from the League of Conservation Voters have been airing in North Dakota for nearly a month encouraging listeners to ask Dorgan and Conrad to vote “no” on the Murkowski amendment.

And Wednesday, about a dozen organizers and volunteers with Repower North Dakota delivered 1,500 letters to Conrad and Dorgan’s Fargo offices from residents who oppose the Murkowski measure.

“Now is the time for clean energy legislation. No more delay tactics,” Repower North Dakota director Eric Mitchell said. “The only purpose for that amendment is to slow down legislation.”

Prior to Wednesday afternoon, Dorgan and Conrad had not spoken publicly about how they would vote today, which left Repower North Dakota supporters wondering, yet hopeful.

“They’ve played their cards very close to their chests,” Mitchell said. “They’re very deliberate in their decision-making process, but I have confidence they’ll do the right thing.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter risten Daum at (701) 241-5541