How Arizona's Immigration Law Will Kill the Climate Bill, and Why Big Oil Should Care

Last Updated Apr 23, 2010 10:57 PM EDT

Climate-change legislation keeps getting short shrift on the national to-do list of both the White House and Congress. First, it was bumped to deal with health care. Now it's financial reform. This week, there were hints that immigration could jump ahead in line. And that was before Arizona Gov. Jan "Ship 'em Outta Here" Brewer signed the stiffest anti-immigration bill in the country. Now, just days before the tripartisan trio of Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., unveil their "compromise" climate-change bill, they've been thrown a curve ball.The Arizona immigration law has angered so many people -- religious, civil rights leaders, President Obama -- that you'd better believe a federal immigration bill will take priority, whether legislation is ready, or not.

And it's a development that should worry the energy industry. In short, this climate-change bill was the best chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy and the like, without obliterating the bottom line of coal producers, oil and gas companies, utilities and refiners. Without a climate-change bill, which would have to be passed prior to mid-term elections this fall, the EPA will surely step forward and begin regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act.

Hints that immigration could move up the line already sent Graham into a tizzy earlier this week. Graham said an immigration bill isn't ready -- and he should know since he's working on one with Sen. Chuck Schumer. More importantly, Graham said it "destroys the ability to do something like energy and climate."

Graham, Kerry and Lieberman have worked for months cobbling together a climate-change bill that takes an "all of the above" approach to energy. And it's even got support from three of the five big oil companies and the trade group Edison Electric Institute, Mother Jones reported.

Here's one way the climate-change bill could be saved, and it's a development that could actually benefit the energy industry and other special interest groups still unhappy with the legislation. As Mother Jones notes, the tripartisan trio has to roll out a bill Monday that has support. Without it, the bill will certainly be passed over. That means some last minute deal-making over the weekend, if it's not happening already, to ensure a climate and energy bill has a chance. Or Kerry-Graham-Lieberman could pull any fence-sitting senators aside and point out that the EPA is ready to take over, if Congress falls short.

Photo of Dead End sign from Flickr user bennylin0724, CC 2.0