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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sen. Boxer Green Lights Senate Climate Debate

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she's ready to green light debate by month's end on the Senate climate bill she has co-authored with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry (D-MA). According to Politico:

A major Senate climate change bill is written and ready to be debated before the Environment and Public Works committee, the chairwoman of the panel said Tuesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer's legislation would distribution of tens of billions of dollars of pollution allowances to power plants, manufacturing, and other industries. It will mirror cap and trade legislation passed by the House in late June with, she noted, "a few tweaks."
For a summary of those "tweaks" - at least as of the discussion draft version circulated by Kerry and Boxer two weeks ago, see my post "Anatomy of a Bill: Key Features of Kerry-Boxer Senate Climate Bill" over at

According to Politico:
Boxer is planning three days of hearings, kicking-off on October 27, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar all expected to testify.

Boxer expects to mark-up the legislation in early November. A final bill will then be complied by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with input from five other committees.

"Our bill will reflect the priorities of our committee," said Boxer. "Once it gets out of the committee it will be taken up by the whole body and people will be speaking to Senator Reid for what they want."
In other words, the bill will in all likelihood get significantly weakened/loaded up with more concessions to key stakeholders after leaving the progressive-leaning EPW committee on the long road to secure the 60 votes needed to end debate and move to final passage of controversial legislation in the Senate.

That effort to secure tough swing votes is already underway, with Senator Kerry penning a joint op-ed in the Sunday New York Times this past weekend with Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. In that op ed, Kerry and Graham spoke about turning America into "the Saudi Arabia of clean coal," expanding offshore drilling and restarting the nuclear industry (see Roger Pielke Jr's take on the op ed here). Politico characterizes this op ed as "a piece of good news for climate advocates" and says "environmentalists" hailed it as a sign "that Democrats may attract bipartisan support for a carefully crafted bill."

Well that may be true, but what kind of bipartisan support and at what price? Senator Graham told his constituents at a town hall on Monday, October 12th, just one day after his op ed with Kerry was published in the Times, that what he's trying to do in working on a bipartisan Senate climate deal is "to make sure that the Markey-Waxman bill in the House is dead." Yeah, this bill. Waxman-Markey is far too onerous for Sen. Graham, who "climate advocates" and "environmentalists" are now counting on to save Senate climate legislation. (video of his remarks below the fold...)

If you listen closely to his remarks, he's talking about a clear price-collar limiting the price of CO2 permits under the cap and trade program (and therefore rendering the "cap" non-binding) and a "gradual and long" transition away from fossil fuels -- aka emissions reduction targets certain to be far more modest than the 20% reduction by 2020 currently in the draft Kerry-Boxer bill, which Boxer herself has acknowledged will be a "high water mark" for climate policy in the Senate.

Maybe it's just the gloomy monsoon weather today in Oakland, but that's just got me feeling all kinds of optimism... Stay tuned.

Originally at the Breakthrough Institute

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