Federal Relations

Energy & Climate Action Remains Uncertain

The Gulf oil spill continues to complicate negotiations on a legislative pathway for energy and climate legislation.  While many agree, including the President, that Congress must take action on an energy bill this year, several moderate senators remain unconvinced that a climate bill can garner the necessary votes in the Senate.  The Senate continues to discuss potential measure that would include provisions such as renewable energy incentives and standards, energy efficiency improvements, revisions to offshore oil and gas policies, and may also include climate change language that regulates greenhouse gas emissions.  

The House passed a combined energy and climate measure (HR 2454) last year.  But that bill and other proposals have stalled in the Senate.  President Obama cited the House measure in his televised speech from the Oval Office on Tuesday evening but he did not specifically mention action to combat greenhouse gas emissions.  Today, the Senate Democratic Caucus plans to discuss prospects for action this year on energy and climate bills.

Multiple proposals, or portions of those proposals, are on the table for discussion.  Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) successfully moved an energy policy bill (S 1462) out of his committee last year that includes a renewable electricity generation standard, offshore oil production allowances, and other standard energy policy revisions.  Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) are pushing for their climate change proposal, which has not yet been introduced.   The Kerry-Lieberman measure adds nuclear power and state offshore oil and gas revenue-sharing incentives in an attempt to garner Republican support.  Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced their version of a climate proposal (S 2877) last year, which proposes a “cap and dividend” solution as opposed to the more common “cap and trade” option.  Finally, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) recently introduced yet another energy and climate research bill (S 3464).  Except for the Lugar proposal, all the measures were crafted and unveiled prior to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Office of Federal Relations has reviewed all the current proposals and will monitor the process closely if the Senate does decide to move forward on energy and/or climate legislation this year.