Federal Relations

October 19, 2009

Climate Legislation Finds Bipartisan Support in Senate

**Update 10/19** Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) are offering an alternative to the cap and trade portion of the Boxer-Kerry climate bill (described below). The senators are opposed to allowing carbon permits to be traded as commodities. However, they do support proposed caps on carbon emissions.

On October 27th, the US Senate’s Environment and Pulbic Works (EPW) Committee will begin hearings on a companion bill to the American Clean Energy and Securirty (ACES) Act (H.R. 2454) that passed the House over the summer.  The Senate legislation, introduced by EPW Chair Barbara Boxewr (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) on September 30th, is currently being refined by committee staff and is undergoing an analysis by the EPA that should be completed in time for the hearings. Conventional wisdom held that the Senate’s version of a massive climate change mitigation plan would be pushed until next calendar year, due to the already partisan environment created by the current health reform debate. However, Senator Boxer’s team is moving ahead with the legislation now. Further, initial drafts of the Senate bill have drawn bipartisan support. Last weekend, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and John Kerry co-authored a piece in the New York Times entitled “Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation).”  In the article, Senator Graham makes the case that a climate change bill that promotes nuclear energy, more offshore oil and natural gas development and carbon sequestration from coal power plants would draw the 60 votes necessary to assure passage. The duo also articulated that climate change legislation should also establish limits on prices for carbon allowances provided under a cap-and-trade system, and a tax on energy-intensive goods from countries with less stringent emissions requirements than the United States.

Research investments were mentioned only briefly in the op-ed. House and Sente bills seem to ignore President Obama’s call for a $15 billion investment in research and development as part of a comprehensive climate change mitigation bill; a point made to Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) this week in a letter from the research community.

Hearings will begin with testimony from Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.

The Senate legislation consists of two divisions:

Division A: Authorizes new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards, creates new programs for energy, research and development (R&D), adaptation, transition assistance and other purposes
Division B: Authorizes the establishment of GHG emission caps and directs the investment of allowance value to various programs including those established or revised in Division A.

Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act