From: Jim Abrams, Associated Press
Published May 16, 2007 12:00 AM

Senate Defeats Provision To Require Army Corps To Consider Climate Change

WASHINGTON -- The Senate, after one of its first full debates on global warming, on Tuesday defeated a proposal requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the impact of climate change in designing water resources projects.


The vote was 51-42 in favor of the amendment to a water projects bill, falling nine short of the 60 votes needed to approve it under the rules set for the debate.


But sponsors of the proposal, led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said it was significant that the Senate was finally facing the issue head-on.


It was the first time in this session of Congress that climate change had reached a vote on the Senate floor, Kerry said. "Tonight we got a majority of senators to stand up and demand that climate change be taken seriously," he said. With the vote, he said, the Senate "has gone on record about global warming and sent a statement that its impact must be considered in our public policy debates."


The proposal would have directed the Army Corps, in drawing up future projects, to use the best available climate science to account for climate change on storms and floods.


Wetlands and floodplains act as buffers between hurricanes and other severe storms and coastal communities, said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., another sponsor. "When Corps projects destroy these and other types of natural barriers, they may put lives at risk."


Kerry said the current guidelines for Corps project planning were written in 1983, long before scientists were focused on whether human activities were contributing to the warming of the planet.


The amendment was proposed on a $13.9 billion bill that approves hundreds of flood damage, navigation, ecosystem and water recreation projects along the Mississippi River, the Katrina-damaged coast of Louisiana and in almost every other state in the country.


Opposition was led by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate's leading skeptic of human-induced global warming.


Inhofe said that theory was being perpetrated by "environmental alarmists who want to scare people." He said the Kerry amendment was "clearly aimed" at moving the Senate toward a tax on carbon or other government efforts to limit carbon output.


The committee chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she had received assurances from the Corps that they have long taken into account the possible affects of climate change on such phenomena as sea level rises.


The global warming measure had the strong backing of environmental groups, including American Rivers, Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation. Chelsea Maxwell, legislative director of the National Wildlife Federation, said it was unfortunate that senators let their enthusiasm for passing legislation filled with hundreds of pet projects for their home states "get in the way of something important like the global warming amendment."


But she said the underlying bill could "help the Army Corps get back on the right track" by imposing changes in its project management that has been criticized for contributing to waste and abuse.


The Senate earlier rejected another amendment offered by Feingold that would have set up a water resources commission to recommend a process for prioritizing Corps projects to ensure that the Corps, which currently has a backlog of $58 billion in unstarted projects, devotes itself to those most important to the nation. A final vote on the bill is expected on Wednesday.


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The bill is H.R. 1495


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