Climate Legislation May be Dead, but Carbon Regulation Lives OnJune 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw
Appearing on MSNBC this morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed that Majority Leader Harry Reid will move an energy-only bill next month, based on a template authored by Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, and predicted that Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will have a chance to offer their much farther-reaching climate change legislation as an amendment to the base package.
Cap-and-trade stands a chance of passing if it’s rolled in with a bigger package of energy provisions that appeal to moderate Dems on their pet issue (offshore drilling, nuclear, etc.). On its own, there’s no way it can get the 60 votes it would need to break an inevitable filibuster.
But that doesn’t mean that greenhouse gas pollution won’t be reined in. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions if they determine that it threatens public health. Last December, the EPA officially announced an “endangerment finding” that carbon dioxide is a threat, and the Obama Administration subsequently made it clear that they would have the EPA set restrictions on emmissions if Congress couldn’t pass a climate bill (though they preferred a bill). Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] has a “resolution of disapproval” (S.J.Res.26) that would block the EPA from regulating carbon absent a bill from Congress, but it has virtually no chance of passing the Senate, the House and defeating an Obama veto.
The Democrats have a convenient political play here. By holding a vote on a separate cap-and-trade amendment, liberal Democrats can place their vote in favor, conservative Democrats can vote against it, and, even though it will fail, the Obama Administration can say they are taking action on climate change when the EPA regulations kick in.
Meanwhile, every Democrat, and probably even a fair amount of Republicans, will vote for the underlying Bingaman energy bill. The bill is likely to change before it comes to the floor — for example, BP-related provisions will be added and offshore drilling provisions will probably be tweaked — but here’s what was in the Bingaman bill, known as the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, when it passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year (via committee summary):
Key provisions in the American Clean Energy Leadership Act:
Set up a new Clean Energy Deployment Administration to facilitate tens of billions of dollars in new financing to get breakthrough clean energy technologies introduced into U.S. markets and expanded as quickly as possible.
Require electric utilities nationwide to meet 15% of their electricity sales through renewable sources of energy (e.g., the sun, the wind, biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower) or energy efficiency by 2021.
Establish an “interstate highway system” for electricity by creating a new bottoms-up planning system for a national transmission grid — based on regional, State, and local planning and input; allowing States to take the initial lead in deciding where to build high-priority national transmission projects; ensuring that if an impasse develops over high-priority projects that have been identified in the consensus planning process, that they can proceed with Federal authority as a backstop; and making sure that the costs of “interstate highway system” transmission projects are shared fairly.
Promote distributed generation by harmonizing and streamlining the current patchwork of interconnection standards and processes. It directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish a national interconnection standard for small power production facilities (15 kW or less) which would cover nearly all residential-sized distributed generation.Revitalize America’s manufacturing industries by boosting their use of clean energy and energy efficiency, so that they remain competitive – and we prevent American jobs from being lost overseas — as energy costs rise in the future.
Improve efficiency in buildings, homes, equipment, appliances, and the Federal government, to cut costs to consumers and stop energy waste.
Ensure that the U.S. electrical grid is protected from cyber vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks, by giving the Secretary of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority and responsibility to respond quickly to threats and attacks that might emerge.
Modernize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve through the creation of a 30-million barrel petroleum product reserve, so that U.S. supplies of gasoline and diesel fuel will not face sudden shortfalls and price spikes due to the shutdown of refineries by hurricanes and other natural disasters, as occurred in 2008.
Open the Eastern Gulf of Mexico to leasing and exploration for oil and gas, making over 3.8 billion barrels of new oil resources and 21.5 trillion cubic feet of new natural gas resources available.
Lay out a 4-year integrated plan to double the U.S. investment in energy innovation and technology, to a total of almost $6.6 billion, with a complementary set of programs to enhance energy jobs training and workforce development. The bill also facilitates the large-scale demonstration and early deployment of carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies, by providing a legal and regulatory framework for the first 10 “early-mover” projects.
Protect U.S. energy consumers and businesses from energy price manipulation and volatility by increasing the transparency of what is happening in oil markets in the United States and around the world – including the role of financial markets in driving oil prices — and by giving U.S. energy regulators the same strong enforcement authorities against market tampering and manipulation that are now available in financial markets.
Reform the Federal energy planning process by requiring a new comprehensive energy plan one year into each new Presidential term, and by providing a baseline of specific studies of resources and international climate and energy policies.