Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are negotiating among themselves on whether to scale back legislation that would impose a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases, with some conservatives and moderates calling for electric utilities to be given free pollution allowances and for more modest cuts in the targets for reducing emissions….
The talks suggest that utilities that distribute electricity from coal-fired plants are making progress in their efforts to get free access to 40 percent of the emissions permits, underscoring the challenge lawmakers face in seeking strict limits on carbon dioxide and other contributors to warming….
The Waxman-Markey bill calls for cutting U.S. emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 83 percent below by 2050; the Boucher proposal would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2020 while leaving the 2050 goal in place….
Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said that senior Democrats are unlikely to adopt some of Boucher’s requests — such as lowering emissions targets — because they simply reflect the legislation that he and Dingell pushed unsuccessfully last year, but that they might accept his proposal on free allowances.
“The Boucher list seems to be a very thoughtful distillation of good ideas, old ideas and areas for discussion,” Weiss said, adding that awarding the allowances free could “soften the transition” to a low-carbon economy for consumers. “Boucher’s request means a deal is very possible.”
House Democrats are working behind the scenes to build a winning coalition on a major energy and global warming bill, but it is unclear if they will be successful.
The closed-door negotiations involve leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee and about a dozen of the panel’s moderate and conservative Democrats who are concerned that the draft legislation circulated earlier this month pushes too fast to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Reps. Rick Boucher of Virginia and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania have the lead in the compromise talks with Chairman Henry Waxman of California. The moderates’ group also includes Reps. Charles Melancon of Louisiana and Charles Gonzalez of Texas.
“This is going to be a direct conversation that [Waxman] and I have,” Boucher said yesterday. “Undoubtedly, it’ll span a number of days now. And at the end of the process, I hope I’ll be able to support the bill. In its current form, I cannot.”
Boucher declined to release his four-page list of recommendations, though he and Doyle provided some details. For instance, they have endorsed the electric utility industry’s call to set aside 40 percent of the proposed cap-and-trade program’s allowances for free distribution to regulated local distribution companies (LDCs) within the electricity sector.
On emission limits, they want emission targets lower than those proposed by President Obama (14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020) and Waxman (20 percent). Doyle did not give a specific figure, but an early draft of recommended changes obtained by E&E suggests beginning with a 6 percent cut by 2020.
The moderate and conservative Democrats also support a less aggressive 15 percent nationwide renewable electricity standard for 2025, as compared with the 25 percent target Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have set for the same date.
“It’s recommendations to the chairman, and we expect over the weekend we’ll be negotiating,” Doyle said. “His staff and our staff will be working on it.”
Doyle explained that the proposed changes could help build industry support for the bill, as well as among Democrats outside the committee. “I want to make the bill as good as we can make it,” he said. “I don’t have any firm lines in the sand. These are things I think are important. If we’re able to get movement toward those areas, then we’ll have a good bill.”
Democrats who already have embraced the draft climate proposal said they welcomed the Boucher-led group’s suite of recommended changes. “We’re going to work very closely with him to resolve those issues,” said Markey, the chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
“At least on the Democratic side, people are looking for a way to get to yes,” added Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.).
Other liberal members of the Energy and Commerce Committee said they are willing to keep on supporting the climate legislation as the moderates press for their issues to be heard.
“Sure, you can devastate the bill, and I’d vote against it,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “But I think the types of modifications that those folks sitting on the fence might be looking for might address a regional concern, a concern back home in their home state and home region.
Michigan Congressman John D. Dingell, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as harmful pollutants Thursday would help push Congress to pass a meaningful energy reform bill.
‘I think the administration’s using that as a club or a whip or a goad to make the House and Senate act on this legislation,’ Dingell said.
Utility companies are pushing for 40% free allowances””a move that reveals power companies’ acceptance of the inevitability of a carbon market. Polluting will no longer be totally free, so the utilities are asking for it to be two-fifths free.
Power company executives amplified their call today for free emission credits to comply with a House climate bill, calling their proposal an “elegant solution” ensuring the public won’t face skyrocketing electric bills.
Representatives of the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners urged the House Energy and Commerce Committee to set aside 40 percent of the proposed cap-and-trade program’s allowances for free distribution to regulated local distribution companies (LDCs) within the electricity sector.
California will use $5.2 billion from the federal stimulus law to restart 5,000 public-works projects that had been stalled by the state’s financial crisis.
Getting new life are projects that had stopped in December because of the state’s $42 billion budget deficit and credit crunch. They include wastewater treatment construction, engine retrofits, flood control and road construction.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) announced the projects’ rebirth yesterday at a Sam’s Club in Glendora, where Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and BP were unveiling a rooftop solar installation. “This is huge, this will protect jobs, this will create new jobs,” he said. “Every billion dollars we spend on infrastructure creates 18,000 to 25,000 new jobs.”
California air regulators on Thursday adopted a first-in-the-nation mandate requiring low-carbon fuels, part of the state’s wider effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The California Air Resources Board voted 9-1 to approve the standards, which are expected to create a new market for alternative fuels and could serve as a template for a national policy that has been advocated by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress.
Ethanol producers reacted with dismay to California’s approval of the nation’s first low-carbon fuel standard, which will require the state’s mix of fuels to be 10 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
‘The drive to force the market toward greater use of alternative fuels will be a boon to the state’s economy and public health “” it reduces air pollution, creates new jobs and continues California’s leadership in the fight against global warming,’ said the California board’s chairman, Mary D. Nichols, in a statement.
See more here: “California may rule corn ethanol is not a globlal warming solution.”
A Missouri utility said Thursday that it was suspending its efforts to build a new nuclear reactor, making its proposed plant, Callaway 2, the first of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ reactors to fall by the wayside.
The utility, AmerenUE, planned to build a reactor near Fulton, Mo., but first it was seeking changes in the Missouri law governing how new power plants are financed. In a letter on Thursday it asked the sponsors of a new law now moving through the state legislature to withdraw the measure, because in its current form it would not provide the ‘financial and regulatory certainty’ the company needed before construction could begin.
Steps to capture and bury greenhouse gas emissions””rather than release them into the atmosphere””appear to have taken an important step forward this week in Britain, where the government proposed making the construction of large new power plants contingent on fitting the technology.
The government also proposed creating clusters of utilities to facilitate the transport and collection of carbon dioxide for storage in depleted oil and gas fields in the North Sea as part of a process known as ‘carbon capture and sequestration,’ or CCS.
Its members belong to what is thought to be the oldest surviving culture in the Andes, a tribe that has survived for 4,000 years on the barren plains of the Bolivian interior. But the Uru Chipaya, who outlasted the Inca empire and survived the Spanish conquest, are warning that they now face extinction through climate change.
Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten