US energy officials, Republicans slam Senate climate bill

29 September 2009 22:40  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Energy sector officials and Republican leaders raised objections on Tuesday to a major new climate change bill to be introduced in the US Senate on Wednesday, saying it leaves key issues unresolved and disfavours industry.

Advance criticism of the long-awaited Senate climate change bill came as leaked copies of the 800-page draft legislation circulated in Washington on Tuesday evening.

The formal bill is expected to be introduced on Wednesday by principal sponsors and authors, Senators Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California) and John Kerry (Democrat-Massachusetts). 

Boxer is chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has primary responsibility for climate legislation, although as many as five other Senate committees will have a say in whatever final climate legislation goes to the floor of the Senate.

American Petroleum Institute (API) officials said on Tuesday that the draft Boxer-Kerry bill that they have seen “leaves unaddressed key elements of how it intends to constrain carbon emissions”.

“Unfortunately, [the bill] appears to be following the pattern the House followed, which resulted in a political bidding process that picked winners and losers,” API President Jack Gerard said.

He was referring to elements of the climate change bill approved by the US House of Representatives in June that, among other things, designated some industries that would receive free emissions permits under the bill’s cap-and-trade pollution restrictions.

“We strongly urge the Senate not to follow the same pattern,” Gerard said. “It should craft a bill that provides equal treatment across the US economy,” he added.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment panel, also raised concerns on Tuesday about what he said appears to be major omissions in the Boxer-Kerry bill that make calculation of economic consequences impossible.

“We understand that your bill, as currently drafted, is incomplete in several important respects,” Inhofe said. 

“Most notably, it lacks a formula to determine the allocation of emission allowances,” he said, referring to the free emissions permits that, in the House bill, would be allocated to some industries to a greater degree than others.

“Leaving out these and other key provisions makes it impossible to get an objective estimate of the economic impacts of your bill on consumers, especially those in energy-intensive regions that rely on coal for electricity and manufacturing for jobs,” Inhofe said.

Like the House-approved climate measure, draft versions of the Senate bill call for sharp reductions in US industrial emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) on a schedule that would put total US emissions at less than 17% of the nation's total emissions in 2005.

Inhofe and other Republicans have complained that in passing the House climate change bill, majority Democrat leaders left key elements out of the bill until a 300-page supplement containing those crucial features was added just hours before the House floor vote.

Boxer and Kerry are expected to formally introduce their climate change bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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