Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), along with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), have made several concessions in the climate bill to get more support from industries, running the risk of losing support from environmental groups that have been the biggest backers of the climate bill, reports The Hill. The biggest issues of contention include pollution permits, pre-emption, offshore drilling, natural gas versus coal and fees for oil companies.
The Senate bill is expected to be introduced soon after Congress returns from its two-week recess.
The Financial Times reports that the bill includes plans to cut carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, with separate caps on utilities and manufacturers. The Obama administration officially pledged that the United States would cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The federal government would also sell separate pollution permits to each sector at a “hard price collar” to limit allowances from $10 to $30 per ton, reports Financial Times. Carbon caps would be imposed on utilities in 2012 followed by manufacturers in 2016. The bill also includes a petrol tax that would likely be passed on to consumers.
A major point of debate is how much power the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will have to control emissions under the Clean Air Act. Businesses that support “certainty” on emissions regulations say they want a federal greenhouse gas law that “pre-empts” action at the EPA to regulate carbon through the Clean Air Act as well as state efforts to control CO2 emissions, which is a big issue for the State of California, reports The Hill.
In February, several industry groups, conservative think tanks, lawmakers and three states filed 16 lawsuits against the EPA’s endangerment finding, which allows the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
Other concerns come from the natural gas industry, which maintains that subsidies for coal and renewable energy could hinder its growth, and the oil industry’s issue with pollution allowances.
Another big compromise issue is offshore drilling, primarily part of the Republican’s agenda. However, many Democratic coastal states and environmentalists are against the expansion of offshore drilling.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is nearing a decision to open up areas along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and gas drilling, which would be a welcome compromise to oil companies, reports the New York Times.
As expected, it could be a huge problem for passing the climate legislation. The Miami Herald reports that ten Senate Democrats from coastal states said they won’t support a climate and energy bill if it includes expansion of offshore oil and natural gas drilling.