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Does climate change legislation have a chance?

May 5, 2010

That’s a question being asked almost every day.   

Whether its immigration or climate change, Congress is moving into the election cycle which increases the difficulty of passing comprehensive legislation, especially bills that require Republican support.  

With EPA taking the next several weeks to analyze the bill, there won’t be much time left on the Senate calendar to act.   And there’s an oil spill that is already straining a fragile coalition of support for oil exploration provisions.

In fact, The Hill is reporting that environmental groups including Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, and National Audebon Society are tellling Senators that drilling provisions are “unacceptable”.

Environmental advocates hope the oil crisis in the Gulf will lead lawmakers to provide stronger incentives for renewable energy and conservation programs to reduce the importance of fossil fuels and shift climate legislation that had been on a rightward track back to the left. 

However, the oil spill is not keeping provisions for offshore oil and gas exploration out of the Senate energy and climate bill according to one of the bill’s sponsors — Sen. Joe Lieberman.   Lieberman was quoted in Tuesday’s Congress Daily.

“There were good reasons for us to put in offshore drilling, and this terrible accident is very rare in drilling,” Lieberman said. “I mean, accidents happen. You learn from them and you try to make sure they don’t happen again.”

When asked whether the April 20 Gulf spill would change any of the drilling language he and Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have developed, Lieberman said, “I don’t think so, certainly not to lead us to remove it.”

Offshore oil exploration won the approval of President Obama and was seen as essential in winning the support of energy state Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.   But Florida Sen. Bill Nelson pledged to filibuster the bill if it contains any provisions for offshore oil drilling, saying “this bill isn’t going anywhere” if oil exploration isn’t removed.

Some continue to suggest that the yet-to-be-contained Gulf oil spill will accelerate action on climate change.

Drilling critics argue that the Gulf spill will shore up enough support for trying to move away from oil as much as possible. “I would like to think that instead of hurting climate change, this spill should act as a rallying cry for comprehensive climate and energy legislation,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expressing optimism, despite the present circumstances.

“Certainly the risk presented by offshore drilling is something that has to be taken into consideration,” said Pelosi, speaking to reporters. “But we must pass this bill. And we will find our area of agreement … between the House and the Senate — to pass it.

“I don’t think this [oil spill] is something that will stop it,” Pelosi added.

The Congressional Budget Office released a study this week on how the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454) would create a loss of U.S. household purchasing power.


The loss would equal about 0.1 percent of GDP in 2012, about 0.5 percent in 2030, and about 0.8 percent in 2050, CBO estimates; the average loss per year over the entire 2012–2050 period would be about 0.4 percent. Measured in terms of the 2010 economy, the average loss per household would be $90 for 2012, $550 for 2030, and $930 for 2050; it would average about $460 per year over the 2012–2050 period.

Republicans on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee are trying a different tactic.   They are calling for hearings on EPA’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impact on agriculture.

Illinois Farm Bureau and more than 150 agriculture groups support two House Joint Resolutions that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate GHGs under its endangerment finding.    Committee members, including Illinois Republican Tim Johnson, say they would like a chance to question the agency on its plans for regulating mobile and stationary sources.

“EPA’s attempt to circumvent Congress to enact its own agenda concerning GHG policies would have a devastating effect on the agriculture community,” said the Republican letter.

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