DC Hill Update 11/10: Senate EPW Committee approves climate bill
DC Hill Update 11/10: Senate EPW Committee approves climate bill
This was a big week for climate in the U.S. Senate. The Kerry-Boxer bill passed out of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee, Senators Kerry (D-MA), Graham (R-SC) and Lieberman (I-CT) announced that they will be working on a "dual track" climate bill with help from the Obama Administration. Next steps are somewhat uncertain, but last week certainly hastened the slow steady momentum of the Senate climate process.
See 1Sky’s analysis of the Kerry-Boxer bill, including detailed graphs on allocations over time, here: www.1sky.org/s1733
1. Kerry-Boxer Passed Out of EPW Committee
Amid a fierce standoff between climate opposition and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and under the gaze of the national and international press, Chairman Boxer and ten other Democrats voted to pass the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S.1733) out of EPW last week. Now two of the six committees with jurisdiction over the Senate climate bill have completed their work on the bill: EPW and Energy & Natural Resources (ENR).
Senators in opposition to climate action, led by longtime climate denier and clean energy opponent Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), refused to show up to a series of markup sessions held by Chairwoman Boxer this past Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (Nov. 3-5). On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, opposition Senators showed up for fifteen minutes to repeat the claims that there had not been enough economic analysis conducted on the bill (subs. req'd).
Undeterred, Chairwoman Boxer brought the EPA's top Congressional liaison to the committee markup room to answer question about the analysis, followed by a day of EPW staff explaining pieces of the bill. No members of Inhofe's opposition block came to either meeting (subs. req'd).
On Thursday (Nov. 5), eleven of the twelve Democrats on the EPW Committee voted to advance the Kerry-Boxer bill out of committee and on to the Senate floor. Senate rules disallowed the Committee Democrats to consider amendments to the legislation without two members of the Republican minority present, so they passed the bill without considering any amendments. The last Democrat, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus (D-MT), voted against the legislation because he was not able to address his top two concerns with the bill – the 2020 emissions reduction target and various agricultural issues – due to the lack of amendment process. Shortly after the vote, Baucus assured climate advocates (subs. req'd), "I'm going to work to get climate change legislation that can get 60 votes through the U.S. Senate and signed into law."
2. New Kerry-Graham-Lieberman "Dual Track"
On Wednesday, Nov. 4th, before the EPW Committee passed their bill on to the floor, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) announced their intentions to create a tripartisan "dual track" of negotiations on a climate bill that will occur simultaneously with progress on the Kerry-Boxer bill. The new group met with White House Climate chief Carol Browner, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and other administration decision-makers this past week to discuss steps moving forward. The goal of this new partnership to find "a possible compromise climate change and energy legislative package that could win the support of 60 Senators and the White House." It is unknown what the ramifications of this new dual track of negotiations will be on the prospects of passing a climate bill in the near term.
Also on Wednesday (Nov. 4), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), joined by co-sponsors Sens. Baucus, Mark Begich (D-AK), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), introduced the Clean Energy Partnerships Act of 2009 -- domestic offsets legislation that will most likely be merged into the Kerry-Boxer bill. The 65-page bill creates domestic offsets program and provides funding for other domestic agriculture programs that reduce carbon emissions or enhance carbon sequestration in the agriculture and forestry sectors. All the co-sponsors of the measure are viewed as key votes for ultimate passage of climate change legislation. Van Ness Feldmen reports "The bill’s offset provisions are generally more flexible than those in the Kerry-Boxer bill, and could build support for climate legislation within the agriculture community and among moderate Democrats."
3. Senate Climate Bill Reactions and Timing
Reactions to the passage of the Kerry-Boxer bill from the rest of the Senate were mixed, with some lawmakers applauding the move, and others continuing to press for a slower, more deliberative process on climate change. Below are some quotes from key legislators on some potential timing scenarios:
- Sen. Baucus (D-MT) told reporters that an end to the EPW boycott and gridlock "frees up the Senate, frankly...It frees up all members of the Senate who are interested in climate change, including those on the committee." Baucus also assured reporters that "There's no doubt that this Congress is going to pass climate change legislation (subs. req'd)... I don't know if it's going to be this year. Probably next year."
- Sen. Graham (R-SC) told reporters that if he had been on the EPW Committee, he would've voted against the Kerry-Boxer bill (subs. req'd), but clarified, "It makes it easier now that we've got the committee process, that part of it behind us... We can all start sitting down and figuring out where the votes are. Clearly, there are not 60 votes for that product. I appreciate people trying. But it doesn't have the support that you'd need."
- Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) echoed Sen. Graham's comments, and appeared encouraged about the new set of negotiations spurred by the Graham-Kerry partnership (subs. req'd), saying "We've been talking a lot about starting over with a blank piece of paper...I think this might allow for that. If that's the case, that's a positive."
- Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) expressed displeasure with the current climate bill, saying "I want to see agriculture treated more fairly" and that he would like to see the coal industry given more free allowances (subs. req'd). He also commented that he did not feel the Stabenow agriculture language adequately satisfied his needs.
- Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said "Some people are talking about not doing [climate] until after the 2010 election," with the suggestion that he's not ready to pass the Kerry-Boxer bill.
- The "dual track" has transformed Sen. Baucus and his Finance Committee from the crucial linchpin in the negotiations to an important player whose input is valued, but not the chokepoint that it could be. Regardless, the Committee is moving forward with hearings on climate legislation. The first of these hearings is at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, November 10th and is entitled “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs."
Many Washington insiders now believe that Congress may take up financial regulatory reform in the next couple of months, before considering clean energy legislation. While some clean energy advocacy groups view this latest development as a setback to climate legislation progress, others view regulatory reform as a crucial step towards ensuring that any carbon market created under a cap-and-trade system is run honestly and effectively.
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said Congress will most likely have to pass reforms of the $300 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market before passing carbon cap-and-trade legislation. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Banking Committee, plans to unveil a Democratic financial reform plan next week. Increased regulation of over-the-counter derivatives is expected to be either included in that package or rolled into the proposal after going through Lincoln's Agriculture Committee. Republican leaders, including Sen. Murkowski, ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also said financial reform will probably need to come first to get Republican support.
4. US Chamber of Commerce Signals (Conditional) Support
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, long an opponent of any sort of climate or clean energy legislation, signaled last week that it may be willing to endorse climate legislation that follows the blueprint laid out by Senators Kerry and Graham in their New York Times Op-Ed. E&E News reports (subs. req'd), "The Chamber said any bill should minimize the effects on major emitters; reduce price volatility; protect U.S. global competitiveness; increase offshore oil and gas drilling; and invest in renewable energy, nuclear power, and carbon capture and sequestration technology."
5. Global Negotiations Update
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Barcelona, Spain all last week (Nov. 2 - Nov. 6) for the final round of negotiations before the much-anticipated Copenhagen COP15 meeting. The negotiations are somewhat floundering, with the impasse between developed and developing nations over emissions reductions targets and finance for adaptation, reduced deforestation, clean technology transfer, and other climate programs becoming deeper and more pronounced. The African Group, a block of African countries that negotiate together at the UN, threatened to boycott the talks until Annex I (aka developed) countries put their short term emissions reductions targets on the table. For a process that sees very little drama, this was a major development, as developing countries don't usually have a very loud voice in the negotiations. For updates on the negotiations in Barcelona, check out the TckTckTck Campaign.
Make Art For Climate with 1Sky
In order to keep the pressure on President Obama and the Senate to lead by supporting strong climate policy here at home, 1Sky is kicking off the "Make Art for Climate" house gatherings to urge the President to step up his efforts for strong climate legislation. At these house gatherings, you'll get together with friends and neighbors to decorate pieces of fabric with images reflecting the urgency of the climate challenge. This way we'll create a powerful visual display of the need to enact bold climate legislation this year. In December, we'll work with you to deliver your art to the President, important members of the Obama Administration and the Senate, in Washington and across the country. Check it out at www.1Sky.org/art.
Prepared by Ben Wessel and Jason Kowalski from 1Sky’s policy team. Please direct questions or comments to email@example.com.