CongressDaily AM for Friday, May 22, 2009
ENVIRONMENT: PANEL COMPLETES CLIMATE MARATHON By Darren Goode
On a near party-line vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday approved a climate and energy strategy after four days of public debate, offering a taste perhaps of the tough talks ahead that the panel's leaders will have with other Democratic committee chairs.
After roughly 37 hours and 94 amendments, the panel approved the bill, 33-25.
Four in the Blue Dog Coalition -- Reps. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, Mike Ross of Arkansas, Jim Matheson of Utah and John Barrow of Georgia -- voted "no." California Rep. Mary Bono Mack was the only Republican to support it.
Bono Mack afterward said she voted yes despite one last pitch from Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton during the final round of votes on the House floor before the committee's final roll call vote. "Still a long way to go, but I think it's important to move the process forward, and I do believe that the full House of Representatives deserves a debate," she said.
Among other things, she wants the bill to better address nuclear energy.
She was a rare Republican on the panel not to cite fundamental opposition to a cap-and-trade program. "Being from California changes things significantly, the fact that we are already doing this," she said.
While Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey, D-Mass., have gotten enough backing for their plan so far, some Democrats on their committee are seeking changes, including scaling back the bill's 2020 emission reduction goal. "I think a lot of us are interested to see what this looks like once it's gotten past the other committees," Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., added.
There are clearly differences to hash out with Democratic leaders on a couple of those other panels.
Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson said Thursday that while he is waiting to see the final version, the Energy and Commerce Committee has "an urban-dominated bill" that "is going no place in the Senate."
Such sentiment compounds his concern about EPA proposing to count international land-use toward calculating the climate-impact of using corn-based ethanol.
Waxman's committee Wednesday defeated an amendment from Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., that would have done away with the bill's requirement that an EPA lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis for ethanol had to take into account possible international deforestation. Peterson said that language and other concerns he has would each on their own keep him from supporting the bill. "In my district, no vote would be a good vote," Peterson said.
He is concerned about allowing international activities such as agriculture and forestry to be used to offset emission reduction targets. Peterson wants all of the offsets to be domestic.
He says rural electricity cooperatives -- as well as municipal plants -- receive three-quarters of the free emission credits that larger utilities receive. He also echoes some Ways and Means Democrats who fear a carbon market would lead to widespread speculation and manipulation that will adversely affect commodity and financial markets. "I'm not for Wall Street having anything to do with carbon ... because you can't trust them,"
He promised that 45 or so other House Democrats share at least some of these concerns, particularly regarding ethanol. Four Democrats -- Reps. Zack Space of Ohio, Baron Hill of Indiana and Ross and Barrow -- voted for Terry's amendment.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., a member of the Agriculture and Ways and Means panels and a Blue Dog alongside Peterson, said no Agriculture Democrats spoke up when Peterson voiced his reservations at a recent meeting. "So I don't think he's bluffing," Pomeroy said. "I think he's got the support he's saying he does."
While Pomeroy is not as worried about setting up a carbon market, he says the bill's 17 percent by 2020 cap-and-trade emission reduction target is "steeper than can be reasonably reached."
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., has said he wants to scale that back to 14 percent, which President Obama has recommended.
Peterson said he has not yet set up a meeting with Waxman for after the recess. "Henry has got enough problems dealing with his committee members," said Peterson, comparing it to farm bill negotiations he helped lead.
He met with House Speaker Pelosi Wednesday and "she understands my concern [and] wants to pass a bill." Peterson also lunched with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Wednesday and spoke previously to EPA Administrator Jackson and said the administration "is hanging their hat" on a peer review of EPA's plan to take international land use changes into account when determining the climate impact of ethanol.
Peterson said the peer review is just a formality. "We don't need to peer-review anything to know what the outcome is going to be," he said.
Waxman said he will draw up language on the dicey issue of siting a renewable energy electricity transmission network after Markey holds a hearing and by the time the bill reaches the House floor.
Matheson wants to add free credits for small business refiners. The bill currently gives credits to refiners generally. Waxman said he would work with him on a possible floor amendment.
Energy and Commerce panel passes cap-and-trade bill, 33-25 (05/21/2009 at 08:34 PM)
Darren Samuelsohn, E&E senior reporter
The House Energy Commerce Committee voted 33-25 tonight to pass sweeping legislation that would overhaul U.S. energy and global warming policy.
Democrats largely held together in support of the 946-page bill shaped over several months of closed-door negotiations and nearly 40 hours of debate this week. Only one Republican supported the bill, as GOP opponents unified against the measure, insisting it was a costly and unattainable measure to be pushing in a tight economy.
While Democrats have long been promising success in committee, several Democratic swing votes remained at the center of attention. Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Charles Melancon of Louisiana voted with the Republicans against the bill.
On the GOP side, Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California bucked her party leadership and supported the legislation. Mack was the only committee Republican to publicly remain neutral on the climate bill.
"While I still have significant concerns about this bill, particularly with regard to its cost and its failure to recognize innovative technologies like advanced nuclear energy, I believe this is the right direction for our district, for our nation and for our future," Bono Mack said in a statement.
During the weeklong markup, Democrats defeated a suite of GOP amendments that would have scuttled the cap-and-trade program if it prompted job losses or energy price increases. But lawmakers made several other changes, adding amendments to create a federal "clean energy" bank and a "cash for clunkers" plan that gives consumers $3,500 to $4,500 vouchers toward replacing gas-guzzling cars with efficient models.
Democratic sponsors hailed the bill's historic passage through the powerful panel, the first time a House committee has ever endorsed a mandatory cap on the industrial pollutants that scientists have linked to global warming.
But now comes the hard part. Several committees will have a chance to assert their jurisdiction over the legislation, with the Democratic leaders of the Agriculture and Ways and Means committees threatening to hold up the bill for their own reasons.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to play a key role in shepherding the legislation onto the floor, perhaps before the August recess. Senate action remains a work in progress, particularly on the cap-and-trade provisions that remain well short of the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster.
President Obama backs the climate and energy bill but has largely stayed away from the details of the legislation.