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Drilling For Votes: Senators Stake Out Climate And Energy Stances

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"Drilling For Votes: Senators Stake Out Climate And Energy Stances"

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As Senate Democrats work to complete health care reform over Republican obstruction, they are also beginning to seriously tackle climate and clean energy reform. Senators are responding to the leadership of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) with letters staking out positions and making specific demands. Here’s an overview of these letters:

The Udall Group: Twenty-two Senators Say Senate Should ‘Consider’ Climate Legislation ‘This Year’. Led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), a moderate bloc of twenty-two Democratic senators “believe the United States should consider bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this year with a renewed focus on jobs and reduced dependence on foreign oil.” Critically, eleven of the signatories last year signed on to a Republican filibuster threat of green economy legislation, and seven are members of Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) Moderate Democrats Working Group . Bayh himself did not sign Udall’s letter.

Download the Udall Group letter. Signatories: Begich (D-AK), Bennet (D-CO), Brown (D-OH), Burris (D-IL), Cantwell (D-WA), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Franken (D-MN), Hagan (D-NC), Harkin (D-IA), Kaufman (D-DE), Klobuchar (D-MN), Merkley (D-OR), Murray (D-WA), Shaheen (D-NH), Specter (D-PA), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Udall (D-CO), Warner (D-VA), and Wyden (D-OR).

The Nuke Group: A Bipartisan Group Of Eleven Senators Demand A Nuclear Energy Summit. Five Democrats and six Republicans, from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), propose the White House hold a “nuclear energy summit” on the “development of a 50-year strategy” within “the next 3-4 months,” because “safe nuclear power must play an increasingly important role in meeting our rising energy demand and ensuring cleaner air.” They want Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA Adminstrator Lisa Jackson, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, and Bill Gates to attend.

Download the Nuke Group letter. Signatories: Carper (D-DE), Landrieu (D-LA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Webb (D-VA), Warner (D-VA), Voinovich (R-OH), Crapo (R-ID), Vitter (R-LA), Sessions (R-AL), Alexander (R-TN) and Inhofe (R-OK).

Coastal State Senators: Don’t Drill On Me. In a letter to Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman, ten Democratic senators from coastal states — Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oregon, and Ted Kaufman of Delaware — write that “our states are literally the front lines when it comes to the severe impacts we’ll see from sea level rise and stronger storms,” and express their concerns that “some interests are aggressively pursuing an effort to open the nation’s coasts and oceans for unfettered access to oil and gas drilling.” They reject “the concept of sharing revenue with states,” as “funds that belong to the American people should be shared equally and prioritized to reduce the federal deficit and to protect our oceans and coasts that provide this resource.” They call for use-it-or-lose-it language on oil leases. Increased offshore drilling won’t reduce the cost of gas, they recognize, saying “the only way for us to lower oil prices is to pursue and aggressive policy of energy efficiency and conservation.”

Download the Coastal Senators letter. Signatories: Nelson (D-FL), Menendez (D-NJ), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Reed (D-RI), Whitehouse (D-RI), Cardin (D-MD), Mikulski (D-MD), Merkley (D-OR), Wyden (D-OR), and Kaufman (D-DE).

Feinstein Drills Into Policy Details. In a letter to Kerry, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) touches on several specific policy details for his “bipartisan legislation to address the pressing problem of climate change.” She wants heavy industry to be exempted from the initial cap, opposes pre-emption of California’s tailpipe emissions standards, supports the Waxman-Markey formula for electric utility permit giveaways, wants new offshore drilling to require state-level legislation, thanks Kerry for including the Snowe-Feinstein market oversight language, and wants the oil carbon fee to be indexed to an emissions target rather than a carbon market. Significantly, Feinstein recommends that “the legislation’s spending authorizations expire no later than ten years after enactment” — a major change from the forty-year permit allocation formulas in previous legislation.

Download Feinstein’s letter.

Begich: ‘Alaska Is Ground Zero For Climate Change,’ So Let’s Drill It. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) penned a schizophrenic letter, saying “Alaska is ground zero for climate change. We are feeling its near-term effects far more than the residents of any other state, including retreating sea ice, rapidly eroding shorelines, thawing permafrost, ocean acidification, and changing fish and wildlife migration patterns.” Despite this, Begich calls for “greater emphasis and expanded incentives for natural gas” and “sharing in revenue from oil and gas development” from federal waters off the Arctic coast. Citing the “billions of dollars” of “damage to Alaska public infrastructure alone due to climate change,” Begich also requests “a higher priority for domestic rather than international adaptation funding” and an increased investment in Arctic research.

However, Begich does not call for stronger emissions reduction targets, stronger renewable or efficiency standards, stronger investments in green technologies, or anything that would allow the United States to lead an international agreement to halt greenhouse gas pollution.

Download Begich’s letter.

Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are holding a marathon of meetings today. This morning they met with representatives of oil majors Shell, BP America, and ConocoPhillips. They will meet yet again with the pollution lobbyists of the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth. The trio is also expected to discuss the legislation with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and later with members of the electric utility trade group Edison Electric Institute.

None of these senators’ letters call for stronger pollution reductions, stronger scientific review, stronger regulation of hydraulic fracturing, stronger action on coal ash waste, stronger mercury rules, an end to mountaintop removal, or greater auctions of pollution permits.

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