Senate bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill set for launch April 26

Looks like a Senate climate bill will not be unveiled the week of Earth Day after all. The new goal for Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., to publicly release a potential deal is April 26, sources said.

National Journal has the story:

Graham explained why the bill would not be released on Earth Day, April 22. “One, we’re not ready,” he said. Second, he said, the message “had been driven by global warming policy” but is now domestic energy policy, job creation and cleaner air. “We don’t want to mix messages here. I’m all for protecting the Earth but this is about energy independence,” he said.

Also important to their message and their effort to secure 60 votes is having some business leaders on board by the time they release a draft proposal. Kerry is giving industry officials a phone briefing this evening, a source said. A group of industry and business officials gathered earlier this week to assess the situation and many expressed continued reservations, sources said.

The Edison Electric Institute, the main trade association for the electric utility industry, wants more work done on how a bill would allocate cap-and-trade emission credits to their industry and whether it would pre-empt EPA and states from issuing their own greenhouse gas limits. EEI also wants a proposed $30 per ton “price collar” limiting the cost to businesses under a cap-and-trade program to come down.

Everybody wants something.

But it remains quite important to keep the ceiling of the price collar as high as possible — and rising at a rate of, say, 5% plus inflation a year.  If there is horse trading, then any reduction in the starting price for the ceiling should be matched by an increase in the starting price for the floor.  See “How the Senate can fix cost containment in the climate bill with ‘price collar plus’.”

Speaking of everybody wanting something, E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reports:

Ten moderate Senate Democrats today outlined a series of pro-industry ideas that they must see in a climate and energy bill if the measure has any chance of winning their vote.

Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan led the coalition pushing for provisions to help domestic manufacturers, including free allowances for energy-intensive industries vulnerable to international trade, a border adjustment mechanism aimed at developing countries without strong environmental policies and federal pre-emption over state climate laws.

“We are convinced that successful legislation must include a multi-pronged strategy to maintain and strengthen our industrial base and the millions of manufacturing jobs critical for our economic recovery,” the Democratic senators said in their letter to the climate bill’s three lead authors, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). “This plan must promote manufacturing competitiveness, create and maintain American jobs, and recognize that a strong manufacturing base is a prerequisite for both a domestic clean energy economy and long-term economic recovery and growth.”

Senators who signed onto the letter represent Rust Belt, Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states with heavy amounts of industry, including Evan Bayh of Indiana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Robert Casey and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Carl Levin of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Several provisions included in the legislation have long been considered critical parts of a climate bill, and Brown said today he has already gotten positive signals from Kerry, Graham and Lieberman that the ideas will be part of the legislation that is expected to be released later this month.

“If they accept all of this, or the great majority of it, it’ll be a huge, huge step to getting this bill passed,” Brown said. “I want to vote for it. But I want to vote for it as a jobs bill.”

Senate aides confirmed today that the Kerry-led trio plan to release their bill on April 26, a few days after their original plan, which was centered around the 40th anniversary of Earth Day next Thursday. Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have had another packed week of meetings. Kerry joked today on his Twitter account that he had missed a Boston Red Sox game because of the climate negotiations.

He also offered a peek into some of his recent meetings.

“Only in Washington can you talk with James Cameron and David Axelrod in the same afternoon,” he wrote, referring to the director of the Academy Award-nominated film “Avatar” and President Obama’s top political adviser.

The nine senators did not offer legislative language in their letter, though Brown said that would come as the negotiations continue. For now, they have ticked through a number of areas that industry has warned must be addressed to keep energy prices from going too high in the wake of new greenhouse gas limits.

They include “a firm price collar, sufficient offsets, a regionally equitable distribution of allowances, reasonable emissions targets and timetables, and a pathway for the development, demonstration, and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies.”

If you want to understand why bills like Cantwell-Collins, which ignore regional equity and don’t focus squarely on dealing with energy intensive industries in the Midwest, simply don’t attract even a fraction of the 60 senators needed, read the letter here.

Graham has also issued the following statement today:

Senator Graham does not support a gas tax.  And the bill he is working on does not include a gas tax.

He is working with the energy industry to protect consumers from a cap-and-trade system which would do great damage to our economy and national security by driving our refiners overseas.

In this effort, he has some simple but important goals.  They include:

* Create legislation that will significantly reduce our dependency on foreign sources of oil.  Today we are more dependent on foreign oil than we were before 9/11.  It is a national imperative that we must break this unhealthy addiction.  By importing ever increasing amounts of foreign oil, we are placing our economy and national security at risk.

* Preempt the EPA from issuing regulations on greenhouse gas emissions which will do great harm to our economy.

* Create millions of new, 21st Century jobs by ensuring environmental policy is good economic policy.

* Limit carbon pollution.

There seems little chance of getting anywhere near the number of Senate votes needed for a bill that doesn’t preempt the EPA (same for the House).  As I wrote of the House climate bill, I agree with NRDC that it would be valuable for EPA to keep this authority under climate legislation, but is not one of the top five things I would change about the climate bill if I could.  Certainly, if the EPA does keep the authority, it won’t try to use that authority to shut existing coal plants down faster than the bill itself would.

17 Responses to Senate bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill set for launch April 26

  1. Fred Teal says:

    I was just viewing your testimony in the Senate yesterday. I understood your use of the term Ponzi scheme. In thinking it through, it occurred to me that burning fossil fuels is like “Casting a spear into the heart of the future.” It is a powerful image. If you like it, use it.

  2. ken levenson says:

    This is going to be a painful first step! (One might even be depressed by the thought of it.) But a first step it is….hopefully we learn to run before we sink.

    While self-serving of him, I agree with Graham wanting decouple the legislation from Earth Day and environmentalism. Too bad July 4th isn’t in April – that would be a good day for introducing the bill. ;)

  3. Fred Teal says:

    I thought one of the main reasons for the EPA finding was to pressure the Senate, in particular, to come up with legislation so that they could stay in “control of things”.

    I must say that it really is like watching sausage being made. Boy, is it disgusting.

    No one seems aware that the more we get the economy rolling again, both here and around the world, the faster we will consume our children’s legacy. That is the Ponzi scheme. The 800 pound gorilla in the room is our lack of any sort of plan for a sustainable economy. We are driving down the road at 80 miles per hour and no one sees where we are headed.
    The initial unseen curve may be the price of oil.

  4. Dan B says:

    I like Graham’s statement about 21st Century jobs. Limiting Carbon pollution is also terrific.

    But I wonder if he recognized the rhetorical dissonance in his statement about the economy, which ends, “greenhouse gas emissions which will do great harm to our economy.” This sets up a question about whether or not it’s regulations or emissions that will do harm. Since the long term costs of climate breakdown are huge and may not be as far off as we might believe – after the summer of 2010 there may not be much love for a warmer world, even in Canada.

    And since the general definition of “economy” has come to mean turning natural resources into product and financial shell games it’s not heartening to see “the economy” be a central factor.

    My feeling is we won’t have twists and turns in the road due to the negative impacts of climate breakdown. They’re likely to resemble brick walls and a swerve to avoid them would take us into the ditch or over the cliff.

  5. Mark says:

    With friends of the environment like Senator Kerry, et al., who needs enemies?

    I can’t believe the bill the three senators intend to introduce will block the EPA from doing its job, protecting the environment.

    We need a functioning environment to have a functioning economy. Choosing to protect the economy, but not the environment, means you’ll end up protecting neither.

  6. Wit's End says:

    Well, haha f**cking ha.

    In hindsight, when the crops have failed and the water when it can be found is fouled with sewage and the Walmart shelves are empty and there are bands of angry armed young men roving the blackened streets at night, all this dithering over legislation is going to seem rather quaint…if anybody remembers it.

  7. Tom says:

    I grow tired of compromise and obfuscation; to the uninformed voter, this will just sound like another rich person bailout. Show me a Senator with the guts to propose a simple tax and dividend plan and stick to guns, arguing we should be doing things to make government more trustworthy and accountable to it people, and I’ll show you one who (despite an initial storm of criticism) will be admired and respected enough for his moral courage that he just might return to office.

    Okay, I may be (perhaps probably am) delusional, but if I am, I prefer the EPA (and a boatload of “jobs oriented” tax incentives to promote the renewable energy and energy conservation industry) to what appears to be the shape of “KGL”. Don’t forget, what happened to the health care bill when the initial bar was set so low.

    While not ideal, at least the EPA (in conjunction with the NHTSA and Department of Energy) can effect reform (albeit gradually). If political capital must be expended, let it be on denying new coal plant permits and cutting oil subsidies. The very idea of no new gas tax (or equivalent) is borderline treasonous, and I do not think anyone should get behind it.

    Hey, if we’re lucky (and I’m not holding my breath), maybe the rest of the world (starting with Europe) will leverage carbon tariffs and the WTO to get Obama to sign a climate change treaty, one that takes the rights of those yet to come with at least a modicum of seriousness.

  8. ChicagoMike says:

    “I must say that it really is like watching sausage being made. Boy, is it disgusting.”

    From what I’m hearing, the senate bill makes Waxman-Markey look like organic, pasture-raised, grade-A sirloin. All the same, kudos to Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham for continuing to move forward with this when others have declared the bill dead on arrival (sound like health care anyone?).

    I just hope environmental groups don’t get so focused on the bill’s weaknesses that they shoot themselves in the foot. Given the political landscape, this is pretty clearly the best we’re going to do for at least another four years. Better to start laying the groundwork now for more serious emissions cuts later down the line.

  9. Minority Report says:

    @ChicagoMike – Speaking about shooting ourselves in the foot. How are we supposed to make serious emission cuts later down the line, if we pull the rug out from under the EPA with this bill?

  10. max says:

    When people complain about “sausage making” it makes me wonder what alternative to democracy they would propose? Our system of government has great weaknesses- the requirement for 60 votes in the Senate comes to mind-but it is what we have.

  11. Raleigh Latham says:

    Disgusting to say the least, how he talks of the economy like a god which is more important than world we live in, or the people who inhabit it. I’ll do what I can to support this mess, but hopefully it can be improved when the 60 vote filibuster shit ends in the coming years. If it was up to me, the EPA would have all the funding and authority of the U.S. Military.

  12. Ken Johnson says:

    “If there is horse trading, then any reduction in the starting price for the ceiling should be matched by an increase in the starting price for the floor.”

    This would be a good tradeoff if allowance prices are more likely to be low than high, which has been the historical trend:
    U.S. SO2 program: $36/ton-SO2
    RGGI: $2/ton-CO2
    EU-ETS: 12 Euro/tonne-CO2
    It is likely that the same trend would continue with a federal GHG program (e.g., U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration …).

    A price ceiling forfeits the “environmental certainty” of the cap, but the cap is basically an arbitrary line in the sand that does not guarantee any sufficient environmental outcome. (If it did there would be no need for a price floor.) Increasing the probability of significantly exceeding the target GHG reductions could be more important than simply guaranteeing an inadequate target.

  13. Mike #22 says:

    In the letter sent to KGL by the ten Dems, a “clean energy + noun” phrase was repeated 20 times

    “clean energy” legislation (five instances)
    “clean energy” economy (three instances)
    “clean energy” industries
    “clean energy” marketplace
    “clean energy” technologies (four instances)
    “clean energy” jobs
    “clean energy” manufacturing
    “clean energy” incentives
    “clean energy” products
    “clean energy” sources
    “clean energy” investments

    I find their letter eminently practical, along the lines of McKinsey & Co. Good to see this going into the grinder.

  14. My favorite line from Graham:

    “I’m all for protecting the earth, but this is about energy independence.” And boy is he telling the truth.

  15. “How are we supposed to make serious emission cuts later down the line, if we pull the rug out from under the EPA with this bill?”

    This bill will require emission reductions of 50% by 2050. That is clearly much better than the EPA can do. What happens to EPA regulations the next time a Republican president is elected?

    In addition, EPA regulations cannot possible be the basis of an international agreement, which requires a scheduled reduction of emissions leading to a 50% reduction in 2050, as Obama pledged at Copenhagen and as this bill requires.

    Remember the obvious point that global warming is a global problem. The US needs to act in a way that can lead to an international agreement as soon as possible.

    It will be much harder to pass a bill after midterm elections. If we miss during this session of Congress, the next chance of passing a law will be after the next presidential election. That will be too late to get an international agreement that makes world emissions peak during this decade – which is necessary to keep warming below 2 degrees C. We need a law now to have a chance of avoiding the worst effects of global warming.

  16. djrabbit says:

    What Charles said.

  17. Bob Wallace says:

    “I grow tired of compromise and obfuscation…”

    “I must say that it really is like watching sausage being made. Boy, is it disgusting.”

    I understand the feelings. I have them too.

    But I can’t think of any way to select a dictator that who would do things in exactly the manner each and everyone of us would want things done…