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Reid Pushes for Joint Action on Climate Change and the BP Oil Leak this Summer

June 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A day after President Obama said that he will help whip votes for passing climate change legislation in the Senate this year, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] called on committee chairmen to prepare a strategy for passing a climate bill this summer. And he’s calling for proposals to address the BP oil leak to be rolled into it.

Here’s part of a letter he sent around to Chairmen Baucus, Bingaman, Boxer, Dodd, Leahy, Lieberman, Lincoln and Rockefeller today:

As you know, I hope to bring comprehensive clean energy legislation before the full Senate later this summer. As your Committee works to develop that legislation, I think it is extremely important that you each examine what could be included in a comprehensive energy bill that would address the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The economic, social and environmental devastation occurring there now due to the oil pollution is unprecedented. I believe it is important that your Committee see what can be done to address both the existing situation and to reduce the risks of such a catastrophe happening again.

Among the actions I think we need to explore are ensuring that the oil companies’ are held accountable for their actions and the damages caused by their operations. This may require adjusting current law to more accurately assess and address the damages caused by failures, to ensure the swift and fair compensation of people and communities for their oil pollution related losses, and to update relevant criminal and civil penalty structures. In addition, we must make sure that effective federal safety standards are in place and effectively enforced and that we are better equipped to avert, detect and adequately respond to disastrous failures in the future.

Democrats and Republicans have both been trying to move legislation by unanimous consent to raise the liability cap on oil companies for economic damages resulting from spills and leaks. Current law caps liability at $75 million. The Democratic proposal would raise it to $10 billion, while the Republican plan would remove the cap entirely, but only for this current leak.

Both parties have been blocking each other’s liability cap bills from passing by unanimous consent. Although it would be entirely possible for Reid to hold a full separate debate on the liability issue and other issues relating to the BP leak, the Democrats’ time with a 59-vote majority in the Senate is running out quickly and it is becoming very precious. A week-long debate on the relatively bipartisan issue of raising liability caps could eat up time that the Democrats could be using to pass something that they need their large majority for, like climate change legislation.

Plus, BP is so unpopular right now that rolling the liability issue into the climate bill gives the Democrats a little extra leverage on the climate issue. Attaching the BP-related provisions to the climate bill “necessarily would position opponents of the legislation as voting against the response to the disaster and in support of the oil industry’s demands (in an election year, no less),” Steve Benen at Washington Monthly explains.

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  • tinahdans 06/04/2010 6:36am

    The “environmental movement,” once the bastion of peace loving hippies and Earth mothers, is potentially the booming business of the 21st century. Billions of dollars currently change hands each year in the name of the environment and, by all accounts, the surface is only scratched.
    To date the missing piece of the puzzle has been a government mandate, something cap-and-trade legislation will remedy. Those already in the game stand to reap a fortune on the backs of average Americans who will see their energy bills “necessarily skyrocket,” as Obama explained, as businesses pass along the new cost of doing what they do in a “green America.”
    It’s interesting to note that without the specter of a government mandate, the Chicago Climate Exchange would hold no value. Likewise Fannie Mae’s patented trading system and Emerald Cities’ prospects for “a new vital economic sector” would be nothing more than fool’s gold.

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    Chris51 07/01/2010 10:02am

    Corporations have increased their cash reserves to $1.84 TRILLION, THE HIGHEST FIGURE IN HISTORY! Big business and the banks, after an unprecedented bailout by the public treasury, are hoarding the funds (Americans pay this back on their IRS tax bill). BIG CORPORATIONS EXECUTIVES ARE MAKING BIG BONUSES AND GETTING SALARY INCREASES FOR SHOWING HUGE PROFITS. The cash reserves of major corporations have jumped 26 percent in one year, the largest percentage increase in nearly 60 years. The cash reserves of working people, and particularly the unemployed, have not been so fortunate.

    REPUBLICANS bloc, the SENATE vote and defeat sevaral proposed extension of unemployment benefits for unemployed workers. Many of these same Senators rushed through a $700 BILLION bailout of Wall Street in 2008 in a matter of days, cannot bring itself to support even the most meager subsistence for the unemployed workers who are the victims, not the perpetrators, of the economic crisis.

  • tinahdans 06/04/2010 6:37am

    Equally troubling is the blatant acknowledgement by those involved in this high stakes green rush that power and profit are the only real benefits to be had. The words of Joel Rogers: “I hope you all realized that you could eliminate every power plant in America today and you can stop every car in America. Take out the entire power generation sector and you still would not be anywhere near 80 percent below 1990 levels. You would be closer to around 60 percent… it would be around 68 percent and this is with bringing the economy to a complete halt… basically.”

  • tinahdans 06/04/2010 6:37am

    Carbon credits are literally nothing. There is absolutely no value to them, nor do they solve any problem. They create nothing, except great wealth for those who seek to traffic in them. Global warming is a proven hoax, and frankly, with all of the damage that people like Al Gore have caused: Millions of jobs lost, unnecessary deaths due to ignorant and ill-advised policies, and just the general mayhem and misery they have caused, there should be long prison sentences and public floggings in their future.
    However, just for fun, lets pretend that global warming is real. What would trading carbon do for it? How would buying carbon credits from one person, and then selling them to another, make any difference whatsoever? The short answer is, it wouldn’t. You would still have the same amounts of carbon in the air, the same amount of pollution. The only thing effected in how much lighter your wallet is about to be.

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  • jabariabramson 06/04/2010 7:45am

    Put solar panels and wind turbines on small, low-power structures.

  • deborahg6 06/04/2010 1:50pm

    Thank you tinahdans, you are spot on. If only the rest of America would wake up. Where are the true and courageous journalists?

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  • swindejr 06/06/2010 10:11pm

    Accountability and social responsibility are highly important, and the BP disaster highlights significant weaknesses. Rolling this into climate change legislation makes perfect sense.

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