Bipartisan Trio Working on New Senate Climate Bill
The Washington Post reported that the senators who were attempting to draft a second bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions released a “framework” of the legislation on Thursday. However, the legislators offered few details about their ideas, and said that they were open to negotiation.
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with a bipartisan group of senators at the US Capitol on Nov. 10, he urged the Senate to act on climate change before the UN climate change summit. Although Ban acknowledged that the Senate was unlikely to move that quickly, he urged the Senate to draft principles to establish pollution reduction goals, because such a framework would be a sign of commitment to reducing carbon emissions on the part of the US.
The nascent bill, authored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), is intended to send the message to delegates at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen that “the movement for climate change legislation in the United States Senate is alive and well,” Lieberman said at Thursday’s press conference announcing the framework.
The senators proposed cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 by about 17 percent of 2005 levels, the same goal put forth in the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House and articulated by President Obama last week. In addition, although the senators said that they do not support the name “cap and trade,” they pledged continued support to the concept of a cap and trade system, in which regulated industries could purchase and trade carbon credits as needed. They also said they support expanded offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, more nuclear power plants, and more funding for research to reduce coal plant emissions.
The ideas proposed by Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham last week have similarities and differences to those in the Kerry-Boxer bill, which went before the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works, Finance, and Energy and Natural Resources committees last month. Although both bills require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the Kerry-Boxer bill requires an emission reduction of 20 percent, not 17 percent, by 2020. However, some legislators, chief among them Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), argue that 20 percent is too aggressive.
Although Kerry-Boxer itself does not contain provisions for nuclear power, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA), a bill written by the Senate’s Energy Committee in June as a companion to the bill, does contain such provisions. Democratic support of nuclear energy is largely seen as a compromise for Republican support of carbon trading and emissions caps.
Environmental groups showed mixed reactions to the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham proposal. The ocean preservation organization Oceana said an increase in offshore drilling could create a higher risk of spills, although other environmental groups said an agreement that included a key Republican was a step forward.
Kerry said at Thursday’s news conference that the three sponsors would have to discuss their framework and ideas with Senate committee chairmen, and that he did not think a bill would be voted on until the spring.