The Skywriter

Looking back at ACES and looking ahead to the Senate


Looking back at ACES and looking ahead to the Senate


1Sky is relieved by the House of Representatives' passing of the American Clean Energy and Security Act in a close 219-212 vote. However, a great deal of work remains to be done in the Senate to pass the strongest climate legislation possible, and grassroots voices will have to be louder than ever in the coming months to demand it.

Here is our analysis of the events around the House vote and what we can initially expect from the Senate. Thanks to 1Sky's Rhiya Trivedi for her work with this report.

In the days preceding the vote, key Democratic representatives and members of President Obama's Cabinet worked hard off the floor to whip up last minute votes, while strong grassroots pressure helped log thousands of calls and faxes to Congress from across the country, so many that the congressional switchboard was shut down.

1. Lead Up to the Vote
Deal struck with Agriculture Committee: After days of backdoor negotiations between House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), Agriculture Chairman Peterson (D-MN) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Waxman (D-CA), a compromise was finally reached.

• Authority over the approval and issuance of agricultural offsets was given to the Department of Agriculture

• EPA has been banned from regulating "indirect land use emissions" from the domestic production of biofuels

• The "renewable biomass" definitions was made significantly broader, with stripped down language and fewer restrictions on qualifying sources

The compromise moved several key "Ag" Committee members and representatives from farm states to support the bill and ultimately, help bring about a victory on the floor.

Environmentalists have expressed concerns over the agreement however, citing the USDA's history of approving offsets for projects that would have normally occurred and the potential for unsustainable biomass practices to continue under the new bill. Read Grist's take on the deal.

More than 220 amendments were submitted to the Rules Committee, which were filtered into a Manager's Amendment and released early Friday morning.

• The Manager's Amendment included significant quantities of new funding to increase renewable energy deployment and ease worker and industry transition, in addition to strengthening the presence of natural resource conservation, minorities and marginalized groups in the bill.
• Weakened components included pieces already decided upon in the Agriculture Committee compromise:  provisions to solidify free allowances for merchant coal, and adding new language that would spur inquiry into "thorium based fuel reactors" (a form of nuclear energy generation)
Read 1Sky's draft analysis of the Manager's Amendment
Grist's breakdown of included amendments

Getting the Votes
Off the floor, phone calls were being made, and private meetings held to round up key swing votes by:

• Speaker Pelosi's team of Democratic whips including Democratic Leadership like Rep Van Hollen (D-MD), and Energy and Commerce members like Reps Rush (D-IL), Inslee (D-WA), Boucher (D-VA), Waxman and Markey (D-MA)
• Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
President Obama and Former Vice President Al Gore on the bill

Responding to outreach from grassroots groups, constituents bombarded their congressional offices with calls and faxes, demanding that the strongest bill possible be passed:

Green For All on grassroots pressure strengthening equity in the Manager's amendment

1Sky's Gillian Caldwell recounts growth in the grassroots movement around ACES

• In an unprecedented statement, the League of Conservation Voters vowed to withhold their valuable endorsements from any representative who voted in opposition to ACES

2. Floor Debate and Vote


For six hours on that Friday afternoon, representatives debated not only the various costs and benefits of the bill, but the validity of climate change and the need for American leadership on climate.

Progressive Media USA's one minute video summary
House Majority Leader Hoyer's (D-MD) address
Rep. Broun (R-GA) receives a standing ovation for calling climate change a "hoax"
Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH) filibusters the vote for more than an hour by reading portions of the Manager's Amendment
• Rep. Bachmann (R-MN) called the difference between the ACES bill and the GOP energy bill a choice between "liberty and tyranny"


Final roll call: 219 votes for, 211 against:

• 44 Democrats voted against the bill
• 8 Republicans voted yes (8 more than the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act received)

New York Times map of vote breakdown
National Journal map

What passage means

An international agreement (Former Vice President Al Gore)
The bigger picture (Joe Romm)

3. ACES in the Senate
The House passage could not have been achieved without GOP votes. The significant number of Democrats voting against ACES only serves to highlight the challenges the bill may face in the Senate, and the need for continued bipartisan support.

White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod says Senate will pass energy bill, despite not having 60 votes at the present

• According to E&E news, there are currently 45 "yes" or "probably yes" votes (including Republican Sens. Snowe and Collins of Maine), with 23 fence sitters. More bipartisan support is likely to come with greater compromise outside of the cap-and-trade portion of the bill. GOP support may be found in Sens. Michael Crapo (R-ID), Brownback (R-KS) and Voinovich (R-OH)

• Committees with jurisdiction over the bill (Environment and Public Works, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources, Finance and Foreign Relations) have been given a Sept. 18 deadline by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to produce their pieces of the bill.

• Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has said that she now aims to have her committee mark up climate legislation by the end of July (Greenwire).

• Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a bill two weeks ago featuring provisions that would impose a 15% by 2020 RES (with up to 4% coming from efficiency), establish a wide range of efficiency standards, and boost green jobs training. Also included are liability protections for parties investing in carbon capture and sequestration projects, a significantly smaller offshore drilling buffer in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, protection for oil from the Canadian tar sands, and a nuclear energy title that would support reactors as viable, emissions-reducing technology.

It is currently unclear as to what the calendar for the "American Clean Energy and Leadership Act of 2009" is in the weeks before a floor debate.

Most climate advocates, including 1Sky, are refusing to support the bill in its current form, and will seek floor improvements to increase renewable energy deployment and eliminate safeguards for fossil fuels. Read our letter to the Committee

4. Important New Reports

New CBO Analysis on Household Costs from ACES, quotes $175 in annual costs for the average household

EPA's ACES analysis, quotes $111 in annual costs for the average household.

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