The Skywriter

DC Hill update 9/15: First week back from recess


DC Hill update 9/15: First week back from recess

The House and Senate returned to Washington last week, prompting the Senate to get back to work on their two biggest legislative priorities of the fall: health care and clean energy.

1. Senate Climate Bill Timing

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) are committed to introducing a draft climate bill to be taken up by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee by the end of September. On the health care front, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress last Wednesday to get the ball rolling on passing health reform. His speech galvanized Senate and House Democrats to continue work on the many existing proposals in both chambers -- in particular, the speech succeeded in getting the Senate Finance Committee moving.

Earlier this week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) presented his draft for a centrist health bill to a group of six senators that have been working together to build a bipartisan compromise. It now looks like that draft will be the basis for a bill that could be introduced into the Finance Committee as early as Tuesday, September 15. The timing of health reform in the Finance Committee is crucial to the advancement of climate legislation, as Chairman Baucus will play a large part in crafting the climate bill.

2. Climate Committee Politics

As the Senate begins to draft different pieces of clean energy legislation, various committees will work to advance the aspects of a clean energy economy that falls under their jurisdiction. The work will then fall to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to combine the different committee reports into one bill.

The Kerry-Boxer bill, a starting point for EPW, should be released by the end of the month. This bill will be the starting point for all climate legislation in the Senate and will govern the pace of the other bills. This week, Sen. Boxer told reporters “there will be a nuclear title in the bill,” likely in an attempt to win support from moderate Senators.

With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee opened up. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) declined to take over the post, allowing Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to become the new chairman. That move means Senator Harkin forfeits his chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, a vacancy that will be filled by moderate Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). Lincoln, who has called the House cap-and-trade bill a “complete non-starter,” told reporters that she is not planning on marking up a climate bill in the Agriculture Committee, which will opt instead to make recommendations to the EPW Committee as they draft a bill. The Finance, Foreign Relations, and EPW Committees are the only three currently planning full mark-ups on climate legislation. Some climate issues, particularly agriculture and renewable energy standards, will likely be addressed in more detail on the Senate floor.

3. Clean Energy Works Launches

Clean Energy Works -- a new coalition of environmental, labor, veteran, and hunting and fishing advocacy groups that includes 1Sky -- launched their campaign this past week aimed at passing climate legislation this year. The campaign launched a new TV commercial that appeared during breaks in the coverage of President Obama’s health care speech and on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”

The Clean Energy Works coalition will target states with senators who are on the fence about clean energy legislation with hundreds of grassroots field organizers and advertisements on TV, radio, and online. The coalition is headed by veteran political strategist Paul Tewes, who is credited with President Obama’s surprise victory in the Iowa primaries, where he worked as state director for the campaign.

4. National Security and Climate Change

As the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th loomed, many clean energy groups highlighted the links between climate change and national security last week.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) gave an address at George Washington University, saying,

Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.

The Partnership for a Secure America issued a bipartisan statement signed by 32 prominent Republicans and Democrats urging the development of a “unified American strategy” that will allow the U.S. to respond to and mitigate the impact of climate change. Signatories include Former US Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, and Former National Security Adviser Robert MacFarlane., a veterans advocacy group, released a series of new ads that tie the need for clean energy legislation to national security.

Over 150 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, among others, joined former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner at the White House on Thursday to participate in a discussion on the links between climate change, energy, and national security. The veterans then went on to lobby their senators to underscore their support of clean energy legislation. The veterans are a part of Operation FREE, a coalition of veterans and national security groups calling for swift passage of strong climate legislation.

5. Business Coalition Shake-ups

Alstom Power joined Duke Energy and Alcoa in dropping out of the prominent coal industry front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Alstom, a company that makes parts for power plants and is working on carbon sequestration, announced it was leaving the coalition "immediately." ACCCE is noted for impersonating veterans groups, elderly citizens, and minority advocacy organizations in fake letters sent to three Democratic congressmen before the passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill this past summer.

The US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) called on the President and Congress to “enact environmentally effective, economically sustainable and fair climate and energy legislation this year” in a press release issued Thursday (PDF). The group, which consists of major corporations like Ford, Shell, and PepsiCo as well as large environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, was a major player in moving the House clean energy bill this past June.

6. Countdown to Copenhagen

This week, the Obama Administration continued to stress the need for a binding global deal in Copenhagen, and the necessity of having clean energy legislation passed before world leaders meet in December.

US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern testified in front of the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence, saying “Nothing the U.S. can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible... The most important thing is Congress send the President legislation.”

EE News reports (subscription req.):

President Obama will speak on global warming later this month during a special U.N. summit in New York where world leaders will try to jump-start talks on a deal that will succeeds the Kyoto Protocol....Obama’s role in the UN. session is sure to spark widespread international attention, especially after eight years of resistance to significant steps on climate change under former President George W. Bush’s administration.

And finally, announced that there are events planned in more than 110 countries worldwide for their global day of action on October 24, 2009 calling for leadership from the world’s governments in the Copenhagen negotiations and beyond. 1Sky is gunning to organize more than 100 events nationwide in the US.

Prepared by Jason Kowalski and Ben Wessel from 1Sky. Questions or Comments? email

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