Lieberman-Warner Survives Committee

After a day-long mark-up, the Lieberman-Warner bill proposing to cut global warming gases (70 percent by 2050 from covered sources) passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by a vote of 11–8, largely on party lines. [JR: The fact that Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted for the bill is a good sign for the full Senate, since he has been the voice of the hard-core greens.]

As she hoped, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer is able to attend the UNFCCC climate discussions in Bali with something to show from her committee. Even if the White House refuses to act, at least part of Congress has acted.

As has the rest of the country. As I wrote earlier this week with Kit Batten, Managing Director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the Center for American Progress, state and local-level actors have pulled out far ahead of federal action this year. To reiterate our examples:

  • In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide.
  • Three regional initiatives have formed to reduce greenhouse gases in the absence of federal regulation: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, in the Northeast; the Western Climate Initiative along the West Coast; and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord (of Governors).
  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), current head of the National Governors Association, declared energy and energy security as his top priority.
  • California passed and will soon enact the country’s first global warming legislation, known as AB32. The state, backed by at least 15 others, filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency in order to reduce tailpipe emissions through stringent fuel economy standards.
  • Several states joined with international actors to form the International Carbon Action Partnership to reduce emissions.
  • And finally, several states, including Washington, Maine, Florida, and Kansas, have denied permits to build traditional, pulverized coal-fired power plants, enormous emissions offenders.

Clearly, the Lieberman-Warner effort to cap emissions and trade permits has support, but it will fight an uphill battle in the full Senate. Sen. James Inhofe plans to filibuster the bill, meaning it will require 60 votes to pass the Senate, so things have really only just begun.