Boxer (D-CA) readies for climate bill introduction, Mid-Oct. markup. Carper (D-DE): “The fact we’ve slowed down on health care I think gives us a chance to do a better job on the clean energy front.”

The NYT reports (via Climate Wire):

Senate Democratic aides say Boxer has settled on 20 percent, and she will make the case by arguing that the slightly higher target is not that big of a leap given recent estimates from the Energy Information Administration that show U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell 6 percent last year because of the recession and a shift away from coal and toward natural gas.

This was the precise argument I made last week for why the Environment and Public Works bill should have a 20% target for 2020.  That said, I suspect the Senate will be lucky to pass a 17% bill.  And perhaps even EPW won’t report out such a bill if “the chairwoman wants to satisfy key moderates on her panel, which include Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).”

If Reid and Obama really want it — and if health care reform doesn’t collapse entirely — the bill could still come to the Senate floor for a final vote by early December, in time for Copenhagen.  After Obama’s blunt UN speech, I’d say there is at least a 50-50 chance of that, but, again, I don’t think the precise timing is as important as picking the time for a floor debate/vote that would optimize the chance for actually passing.

Here are more details on the timing:

Sources off Capitol Hill say they expect Boxer to start legislative hearings during the week of Oct. 5, with a tentative markup penciled in for the week of Oct. 12….

Senate Democrats say they would like to get the climate bill finished by Copenhagen, but they also explained that the U.N. conference would not be their make-or-break deadline.

“It’s not easy to predict how we’ll complete the work this year,” Cardin said. “But we’re making every effort to get it done this year. We’re certainly working toward concrete progress before the Copenhagen meetings. I think we’re clearly working with the goal of action this year.”

Reid said last week that he wanted to get to the climate bill “as quickly as we can.” But he also acknowledged that the legislation may need to take a back seat until early 2010 while the Senate tries to pass other top-tier agenda items, including health care and Wall Street regulatory reform.

The prospect of a Senate slowdown prompted a top European official last week to question whether the United States was keeping true to its international commitments. “I submit that asking an international conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position,” said John Bruton, head of the European Commission delegation to the United States.

Todd Stern, President Obama’s top climate envoy at the State Department, pushed back in a conference call with reporters late Friday, citing $80 billion in U.S. spending on low-carbon technologies as part of this year’s economic stimulus package, as well as EPA regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Senate is now doing what the Senate does on large, complex legislation,” Stern said. “It has jurisdiction in a number of committees. It is a highly consequential bill that probably affects every corner of the economy. They are also wrestling with major health care legislation. That’s the way our process goes. It may be that some people on the other side of the pond don’t understand the system that well, but that is the way our system works, and we’re pushing ahead.”

Democratic leaders won’t say for sure when they plan a floor vote on the climate bill, but some aides predicted that April 2010 was the approximate cut-off point because of the politics surrounding the upcoming midterm elections.

Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he would not rule out a continued climate change debate well into 2010. And he cited the legislative timeline surrounding another memorable battle over environmental legislation: the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.

There, the Senate voted 89-11 to pass the bill in April 1990 while the House approved its version 401-21 a month later. Conference negotiations lasted four months and concluded with final votes at the end of October, just before the midterm elections. President George H.W. Bush signed the law in mid-November.

“The reality is there’s plenty of time to enact a bill into law,” said Weiss, who worked as a Sierra Club lobbyist during that 1990 debate.

And here’s more on the politics:

Baucus appears ready to play the same role that his fellow coal-state House Democrats did by pushing for a weaker greenhouse gas emissions limit.”Yes” votes from Baucus and Specter, another coal-state Democrat, could send a strong signal for other like-minded lawmakers headed toward the floor, where the bill likely faces a GOP-led filibuster. But neither lawmaker is on board yet, and the signals they are sending remain mixed.

Specter last week joined four other coal-state Democrats in writing the White House for its assistance in understanding key trade provisions of the House-passed legislation. And Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, is battling Boxer for jurisdiction over a key piece of the climate bill at the same time he remains immersed in health care.

See “Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) joins key Dems in proposal to boost carbon capture and storage in climate bill.”

Democrats working on the climate bill acknowledged that they are constantly trying to piece together a 60-vote coalition on global warming.

“We’re not at 60 votes yet,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “But there are a lot of potential senators who could be part of that 60.”

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), Boxer’s lead co-pilot in writing the climate bill, said that the authors are in talks with their fellow Democrats on carbon market oversight, as well as funding for clean coal technology, other low-carbon energy technologies and adaptation.

“There are a lot of different pieces,” Kerry said. Asked how often he is counting votes, Kerry replied, “Every day.”

While Senate Democrats have largely kept their focus on winning over their own, Kerry has also taken the lead in direct talks with Republicans. More negotiations with GOP moderates are expected as the bill ripens and as the authors face dwindling prospects of winning over conservative Democrats, including Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.”I’m feeling pretty good about the tactics, the strategy, that as much as possible, we’d like it to include Republicans,” Lautenberg said. “The one thing I believe, bipartisanship is a means, not an ends.”

As they prepare for their bill introduction, Boxer and Kerry are most likely looking for help from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who currently is in the thick of the health care debate. Down the line, the Democrats are also hopeful they can satisfy other longtime climate advocates, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

“We think we can get Republican support for this bill,” Cardin added. “Not just one senator, but several.”

4 Responses to Boxer (D-CA) readies for climate bill introduction, Mid-Oct. markup. Carper (D-DE): “The fact we’ve slowed down on health care I think gives us a chance to do a better job on the clean energy front.”

  1. The idea of adding nuclear subsidies to the Climate Bill to gain Republican votes seems ludicrous — WHAT Republicans? They have proven since Obama took office they are planting their feet in opposition to everything, including the Climate Bill.

    If you want to get one or two Republicans — likely the maximum you will achieve — structure some incentives specifically directed to their own home states.

    For instance, extending the 30% Tax Credit to energy storage technologies would directly help Maine, where a $2 Billion RiverBank Power pumped-hydro energy storage facility is under investigation for Wiscasset, ME.

    The same provision would of course help the renewable energy industry to take off nationally — including in AZ, where solar thermal power plants hold great promise, especially if linked with energy storage technology.

    I cannot imagine how a nuclear subsidy will directly help either Maine or Arizona — so if those are the votes you are seeking, do something that makes sense for those specific states.

    A nuclear subsidy is sought primarily by the SE state senators who will vote NO on the Climate bill — regardless of what is done to try to appease them.

    Appeasement of sworn enemies rarely works. Does anyone in Congress still know how to bargain?

  2. Leif says:

    “Pumped-hydro energy storage,” reminds me of an old adage… “Water invented man so that it could go up hill.” And so it goes…

  3. Andy says:

    There’s a pretty strong coastal coalition in Louisiana that includes support from a lot of oil companies and oil field services (Coast 2050); I think if the oil companies can be convinced that James Hansen is correct in that all conventional (i.e. sans tar sands and oil shale) oil resources will be allowed to be used up, then some of them can be brought on board. Senator Landrieu supports the Coast 2050 initiative and could support climate change legislation if some substantial coastal restoration funding is included. Sending a greater share of offshore oil revenues to Louisiana would also really help. Perhaps as a climate change adaptation measure (for coastal marsh and barrier island restoration).

    Louisiana will support this if climate change and sea level rise can be spoken of more openly to the public; i.e. if the network news folks would stop putting qualifiers like “may happen” or “could occur” in their AGW reports. Also, if someone would please knock Fox News (which plays everywhere down here – the gym, McDonalds, the doctor’s office) a good one in the head. Perhaps an endangerment lawsuit? Hey, tabacco comercials are gone now so I don’t see why false reports by a foreign-owned news service designed to change U.S. political decisions in a manner known to harm the country should be legal (aren’t they yelling fire in a crowded theater?).

    At any rate, someone just needs to connect the dots for Louisiana and Senator Landrieu. They love their coast more than they love Exxon. They really do and if Senator Landrieu had the public’s support, she’d be behind this 100%.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Andy (3) — I can only pass on the various estimates for sea level rise at century’s end. These now range from a low of about 0.8 meters to a high of possibly 2 meters. Coastal protection engineers in three seperate localities, each using their own methods, appear to be planning for more than one meter, as high as 1.4 meters in one case.

    Best of luck communicating that to Louisiana and Senator Landrieu.