The Skywriter

DC Hill Update: First week of recess

18
Aug

DC Hill Update: First week of recess

With the first week of recess completed, town hall meetings remain dominated by health care, and complicated by the Astroturfing of right wing think tanks and energy lobbies. With two weeks of recess still to go, grassroots voices will need to be louder than ever to disprove the notion that the anti-climate voice is the majority voice, and to create the necessary momentum for the Senate to pass the strongest possible climate and energy bill in the fall. Public support for climate action is strong (as evidenced by this week's Zogby poll), we just need to ensure that those voices are heard.

1. Timeline

As soon as the Senate returns from recess on September 7th, we can expect quick turnaround on the release of a Boxer-Kerry--(?) discussion draft (they're looking for a third Republican cosponsor). In the weeks following the discussion draft, pieces from the Agriculture, Finance, Foreign Relations, and Commerce Committees will be marked up, and all committee chairs have promised to meet the September 28th deadline that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has set. Following the end-of-September deadline for committee action, Sen. Reid will then assemble the committee reports into a manager's amendment ready for consideration on the floor in the next couple of months.

After the Senate climate bill is marked up in committee, we won't see any floor action on it until after health care has been voted on by the Senate. Much uncertainty remains as to when this shift will occur, but it's been made relatively clear that climate and energy are next in line for the Senate and administration, with the goal, but no guarantee, of passage before Copenhagen this December.

  • 8/8 - 9/7: Senate August Recess (4 weeks)


  • 9/8: Boxer-Kerry--(?) discussion draft to be released (will include many placeholders to be filled in, including likely blanks on how allocations are handled)


  • 9/21-9/25: Tentative EPW markup


  • 9/8 - 9/25: Other climate committee markups held


  • 9/28: Mark-up deadline for all senate committees with climate jurisdiction


  • After 9/28: Majority Leader Reid will then assemble committee reports into one Senate bill, ready for floor consideration.

2. Town Hall Mobs

The right wing think tanks and energy lobbies have scaled up their 'Astroturfing':

Astroturfing against climate: Since health care has continued to dominate the discussion within town hall meetings, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (the group responsible for the fake anti-climate letters) has been most active outside of the meetings, using a purported 225,000 volunteers dubbed “America’s Power Army" to ask misleading questions about the climate bill at public events. You can follow them on Twitter to see where the groups are heading next.

There is increasing evidence that right wing think tanks and energy lobbies are investing in a 1-2 punch to President Obama's two domestic agenda items, seeking to dismantle both health care and climate legislation. Check out a memo from the right-wing think tank FreedomWorks to anyone wanting to disrupt a town hall. Oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries appear to be funding the entire initiative. Next week, the American Petroleum Institute will be unleashing their "Energy Citizens", also joining the fight against climate legislation. 15 rallies have already been planned by the group.

Health Care Hysteria: Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman deliberates on town hall mobs, much like those Reps. Steve Kagen (D-WI) and Steve Driehaus recently hosted, where they faced "incomprehensible yelling. A meeting held by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) was also disrupted.

Check out a comparison that was done between those ‘birthers’ questioning President Obama's citizenship and the anti-health care reform movement's ‘deathers.’ To help dispel these falsehoods the White House has set up a page on their website called "Reality Check", intended to give the facts about reform.

What 1Sky is doing about it: On Monday, August 10th, 1Sky supporters in 28 states threw 69 beach parties nationwide, asking their Senators to work hard for a climate bill. See the press release and photos of the events. The events received a fair amount of local press coverage, namely in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington.

1Sky is also working to turn out at least 3-5 constituents in town hall meetings in 22 states where we have field capacity. If you are willing and able to attend a town hall meeting that your Senator is holding this month and stand up for a clean energy future, email us at congress@1sky.org and we will let you know the time and place of the next town hall near you. Though health care is by far the most discussed topic inside of town hall meetings, we need to meet the challenge being presented by the Astroturfers outside of the events as they continue to whip up opposition fueled by misinformation campaigns.

3. Last Minute Movement from the Senate

Trade Provisions: 10 fence-sitting Democratic Senators sent President Obama a letter demanding that the climate bill include a carbon tariff "to ensure that manufacturers do not bear the brunt of our climate change policy". Signers included several key votes, including Sens. Brown (OH), Stabenow (MI), Levin (MI), Feingold (WI), Bayh (IN), Casey (PA), Byrd (WV), Specter (PA), Rockefeller (WV), and Franken (MN). Though the tariff could spur a trade war if the measures are too stringent, many economists feel that border provisions will encourage emissions reductions throughout the international community without appearing protectionist.

Natural Resources Adaptation: In a letter sent to Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Friday, Sens. Whitehouse (D-RI) and Baucus (D-MT) stressed the importance of natural resource adaptation in a climate bill. The pair is rumored to have prepared draft legislation (E&E subscription required) on the issue that would set aside allowance value for natural resource protection.

Price Collar: Chairwoman Boxer (D-CA) came out in support of a price collar (E&E subscription required) last week, suggesting that she was leaning towards an allowance reserve that could then be auctioned off to manage any unforeseen price volatility caused by a cap on carbon. Sens. Bingaman (D-NM) and Murkowski (R-AL) have been strong proponents of a "safety valve" such as this (as opposed to an off ramp), as have several economists and environmentalists.

Key Swing Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Byron Dorgan (D-ND), announced this week that they feel that a joint climate and energy bill would be too much of "a lift", and that Congress should only attempt an energy bill this fall. Sen. Lincoln also announced late last week that she would not support "similar legislation [to the House passed bill] in the Senate." You can read some more of Sen. Lincoln's past remarks on climate legislation.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) said at a town hall meeting this week that he would support a 20% by 2020 RES, although his staffer was quick to add that the Senator's support hinged upon the political viability of the RES. Another key swing - Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) - came out in strong support of a climate bill this week, largely because of the job creation potential for South Dakota. This week the New York Times also defended the need for a climate bill that caps emissions now.

4. From the White House

Though climate-related action from the administration is expected to ramp up immediately following a vote on health care, the White House took a few steps this week to show their commitment to a clean energy economy:

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said this week that hiring for green jobs will "pick up soon." Since green jobs are starting to be seen as a potential relief to unprecedented unemployment, Green Jobs Czar and Green For All founder Van Jones also received media attention from the Washington Post and Politico.

President Obama announced how $2.4 billion from the Recovery Act will be allotted between 48 different battery and electric vehicle projects. Read the President's remarks from Indiana on the job potential of a green collar economy.

5. Climate Change and National Security's Second Wave

Though far from being a new concept, the national security threat posed by climate change made the front page of the New York Times this week. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has been a strong proponent of the correlation, leveraging national security interests in the more than two dozen meetings he has held with swing Senators, in addition to the hearings he held on the issue before the Recess. Some are skeptical that the concept can be used in both public and political spheres to gain support for a climate and energy bill, citing a recent study from the American Psychological Association which has revealed that Americans are most concerned with immediate, as opposed to long term threats.

6. International Talks Reinforce the Need for Strong Targets

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met last week for informal negotiations on the road to Copenhagen. Outside of trying to get the treaty text under 199 pages (see draft), the talk has been mostly on targets for reducing global warming pollution. Though developed nations have proposed emissions reductions between 15% and 21% by 2020, leading scientists and developing nations have called for 25-40%. In the interests of both scientific integrity and a successful international treaty negotiation, we will need to fight for the strongest possible short term targets in the Senate version of a climate and energy bill this fall.

The North American Leaders Summit (negotiations between Canada, the US, and Mexico) has materialized into a commitment to working together to establish infrastructure for greenhouse gas emissions trading and to achieve carbon-neutral growth in the North American aviation sector. Still, environmental groups and developing nations are keen to see the three nations commit to more ambitious emissions reductions.

7. New Studies / Polls

A study examining the economics of climate change took over the front page of Goldman Sachs' website.

The National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council for Capital Formation released their analysis of ACES, which found that the climate bill would "whack U.S. industry, kill about 2 million jobs, and knock about 2% off of U.S. GDP by 2030". Read the full study, and criticism of the analysis' analytics from the NRDC.

A new Zogby poll has found that 71% of likely American voters support ACES.

Policy update prepared by 1Sky policy fellows Rhiya Trivedi and Nick Santos – questions or comments, email nick@1sky.org.

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