Does Climate Bill Have a Fighting Chance?

climate change

Three senators are set to unveil a bipartisan effort at climate change legislation on Monday, but the bill is already angering environmental groups. And while some major industry players will reportedly endorse the bill, there are still traditional opponents to win over.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are working on a bill that is expected to limit the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. That's one proposal among many that the legislators say will help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, spur the alternative energy market and bring down carbon emissions.

A number of moderate Democrats and Republicans want to see the EPA's authority over greenhouse gas emissions limited, but that proposal is a main concern among environmentalists.

Greenpeace announced today it is opposed to the bill, Politico reports, citing that proposal as well as other elements of the legislation it has problems with.

"Although we appreciate the Senate's efforts to reduce global warming pollution, it's clear that polluter lobbyists have succeeded in hijacking this climate policy initiative and undermined the ambitious action necessary," Phil Radford, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the progressive think tank the Institute for Policy Studies, spoke about the bill with Democracy Now on Earth Day on Thursday. She said curtailing the EPA's authority over greenhouse gas emissions "is a slap in the face to everything that Earth Day stands for."

Even with such concessions for moderates expected to be in the bill, its authors are still trying to win support for it from groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the House climate change bill, CQ Politics reports.

Kerry said on a conference call Thursday evening, however, that three of the five major oil companies will back the legislation, Mother Jones first reported. Those three companies are Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips, an unnamed source told the Washington Post.

Kerry reportedly said he believes those companies will "actively participate in supporting this bill," while he expects the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's major trade group, to halt its ad campaign attacking the legislation.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents most of the nation's utilities, is also reportedly expected to support the measure.

Along with limiting the EPA's authority over emissions, the Washington Post reports the bill is also expected to:

  • cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, and 80 percent by 2050
  • require some polluters to obtain permits for emissions, but place an upper and lower limit on the price of pollution permits -- known as a hard price collar
  • allow some trade-sensitive or energy-intensive industries to get a delay before being subject to greenhouse gas limits
  • subject oil companies to pollution allowances, but keep those permits off of the "carbon market"
  • return to consumers two-thirds of the revenues generated by auctioning off pollution allowances for utilities
  • provide loan guarantees and liability protections for the construction of up to12 new nuclear power plants
  • provide $10 billion to the coal industry for "clean coal technology"
  • provide financial incentives for natural gas and electric vehicles

While the bill will be introduced Monday, it is unclear whether the bill would even make it to the Senate floor this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he plans to take up immigration before climate change, according to reports, which could leave Senators with little appetite for another controversial bill.

Graham said on Thursday that taking up immigration would destroy the Senate's chances for passing a climate change bill, the Hill reports, but Lieberman sounded sure their bill would reach the floor.

"I came away very encouraged that this is a priority for the majority leader, so that we will get floor time for sure," Lieberman reportedly said.

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