Posted by: mstermitz | June 25, 2009

Work Continues On Federal Climate Bill

[Originally posted 5-15/09]
New details are being added to the Waxman-Markey discussion draft bill on climate change regulation. Our earlier post (“Carbon Auction Maybe”) noted the marked absence of provisions governing, for example, a cap and trade system that has been both touted by the Obama administration and generally expected by the public. Those provisions are now apparently being negotiated and included into the draft bill.

Today’s Reuters report describes the ongoing evolution of what is sure to be at least the foundation for significant climate change legislation:

For months, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee have been in negotiations with themselves as Republicans refused to consider any “cap and trade” program to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The result is a bill that tries to dampen the short-term impact on companies and thus energy prices. For example, the retooled legislation would lower the price of future pollution permits that industry would have to buy, give more rewards for companies that take added steps to corral carbon emissions and give some firms a couple decades to fully transition into the program.

The chairman of the committee, Representative Henry Waxman, said his panel will debate and pass the bill by the end of next week. That would clear it for other House panels to consider before a debate by the full House, probably by August.

The legislation faces more uncertainty in the Senate.

New details drew criticism from environmental groups. Union of Concerned Scientists President Kevin Knobloch said the bill needed strengthening to ensure it “yields the green jobs and consumer savings that the public deserves.” The organization criticized alternative energy standards for utilities that were less aggressive than envisioned.

But under the House Democrats’ compromise, electric utilities could get up to $100 billion in bonus carbon pollution permits, if they capture and store greenhouse gas emissions, Boucher told reporters. He has been a negotiator on the bill.

The legislation would also allow U.S. companies to offset up to 2 billion tons of emissions by funding green projects in the United States and other countries, Boucher said.

At this point it would be very hard to predict the sort of cap and trade or carbon credit regime that will emerge after both House and Senate debate. What is probable is that landmark climate change legislation will be enacted by Congress in the relatively near future.

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