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Waxman says Dems ‘very close’ to a climate deal, White House to intensify push for bill next week, floor vote next Friday?

By Joe Romm  

"Waxman says Dems ‘very close’ to a climate deal, White House to intensify push for bill next week, floor vote next Friday?"

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We are coming into the home stretch on the climate bill, and the key players are (finally) starting to step up their efforts. Politico reports:

The Obama administration will make an intense push to pass climate and energy legislation next week, according to key lawmakers, aides and lobbyists.

The “energy week” comes as the House faces new obstacles to passing a controversial cap-and-trade bill, causing environmentalists to grumble that the White House has not put enough political capital into passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year.

The White House plans to dispatch Cabinet officials to push the administration’s energy agenda and urge Congress to pass climate legislation currently under siege from skeptical Democrats in the House.

Well, I’m not an environmentalist but I certainly have been grumbling that the White House has failed to do adequate messaging or arm-twisting (see “Nancy Sutley: Obama to stake political prestige on passing US climate bill“).  Heck, President Obama didn’t even show up for the launch of the first US climate impact study in a decade, one that his NOAA administrator “a game changer.”

The White House would appear to be among those who think the bill is going to the House floor next week — and the latest buzz is that the vote might be on Friday, but that is contingent on negotiations with Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN).

And how are negotiations going with the aggies — and how will be bill be modified to appease them?  E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reports:

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and farm state Democrats are “very close” to a deal on the comprehensive energy and global warming legislation, Waxman said today, potentially opening the way for a floor vote next week.

“I think we’re very close,” Waxman told reporters. “I’d think by Friday or Monday we’d have a clear outline of the totality of the bill reflecting the input from the other committees.”

One change that is all but certain is to give some of the allowances to the rural electric cooperatives (details on who they are and what they want can be found here).

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a senior Energy and Commerce Committee member who helped negotiate the allowance language, told reporters today that there is some wiggle room to accommodate the rural electric cooperatives’ concerns, explaining that Democrats are “considering some changes to be made on the margin to the legislation.”

“We’re having conversations that involve a range of parties interested in certain aspects of how they’re treated under various allocation scenarios,” Boucher said. “And part of it is just striving for understanding of how the process as outlined in the bill actually works. But I think it’s reasonable to say we’re not going to have any significant reopening of the allocation program.”

The emission allowance issue is one of at least three items that Peterson has raised with Waxman as Democrats try to secure the necessary 218 votes for floor passage. Also on the table is debate over the Agriculture Department’s management of the carbon offset program and whether to hold the ethanol industry accountable for “indirect” land use, like crop conversion in other countries.

Some have criticized me for not preemptively attacking the proposed changes the aggies want, but, frankly, we just haven’t seen any details coming out to know what to attack — and what little has come out is nothing to lose sleep over.  Giving some allocations to rural cooperatives is harmless.

Letting the Agricultural Department work with the EPA on the carbon offset program is also not unreasonable (I wouldn’t put them in charge) — as long as the other provisions in the bill to maintain offsets integrity are kept.  The indirect land use issue is certainly potentially more important — in theory — but frankly the enviros made a terrible deal back in the 2007 Energy Bill where they agreed to allow the corn ethanol industry a mandate for 15 billion gallons with a full exemption from lifecycle analysis in return for a mandate of 22 billion gallons of nonexistent cellulosic biofuels.  If they thought they could undo that deal, they were wrong.  The bottom line is that for the offsets and land use issue, the devil is very much in the details, and I will certainly weigh in when the specific details are out.

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5 Responses to Waxman says Dems ‘very close’ to a climate deal, White House to intensify push for bill next week, floor vote next Friday?

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, see this interesting interview just out in Forbes. A number of interesting assertions are made by the CEO of American Electric Power (AEP), including this:

    “On the efficiency side it would allow me to put capital to work on GridSmart [AEP's smart-grid initiative]. And instead of being a net buyer of renewable energy from third-party generators, I’d begin to be a net builder of renewables. It’s the same issue as always: I’m satisfying a state or federal renewable requirement, and my customers’ rates are going to go up anyways, so why shouldn’t my shareholders get the benefit of our building that new generating capacity rather than buying the electricity on the market?”

    Of course their rates would go up to pay for it, but that doesn’t sound like a bad thing under the circumstances. What’s most interesting here is that (as far as I can tell) the outcome being discussed isn’t a direct requirement of W-M at all, but rather something that will come about as a product of regulatory pressure and utility self-interest.

    Also, isn’t AEP one of the very utilities that Peterson claims to be worried about?

  2. Chad Woodworth says:

    What did you mean by “Well, I’m not an environmentalist”?

    What is an environmentalist, anyway?

    [JR: I am not someone who focuses on promoting policies or actions for the purpose of protecting the environment. See Let’s Dump “Earth Day.” My focus is protecting the health and well-being of humans, which, it must be said, does it require a livable climate. Many of my best friends are environmentalists :) ]

  3. Chad Woodworth says:

    What is an example of an environmental initiative that does not protect “the health and well-being of humans”?

  4. Jenna says:

    Joe – I think you’re wrong about the specifics of what Peterson and the Ag folks want. You haven’t done much digging, that’s all.

    They want – EPA to be restricted from using ILUC in its calculations.
    Offsets to be COMPLETELY under USDA, but the problem here is that opening up offsets too much will hurt farmers in the end. There won’t be an international market for US farmers’ offsets, among other things.
    Changing the allocations package – Peterson wants to further reduce the number of permits that are auctioned initially, and many of the industry groups are lobbying for delaying the switch from free to auction.

    The offsets and allocations are a major, major blow to the bill.

    [JR: I'm glad you know the details of what are being negotiated. The rest of us will have to wait. What they want and what is being negotiated are to very different things. The allocations are not a major, major blow to the bill. Not even one "major." The offsets are certainly not how I would've written them but in the real world, not even a major blow.]

  5. djrabbit says:

    “I’d think by Friday or Monday we’d have a clear outline of the totality of the bill reflecting the input from the other committees.”

    Can we please make it Friday? I take it I’m not the only reader who’s been on pins and needles over this. My wife may divorce me if I start one more discussion with “well, still no word back from the Ag Committee.”