US Senate panel approves cap-and-trade, draws industry fire

05 November 2009 23:20  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A key US Senate committee on Thursday approved a climate change bill that calls for sharp reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), and the vote was quickly denounced by energy, refining and petrochemical interests.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved S-1733, titled the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act”, in a 10-1 vote that included no Republican members of the panel.

The lone vote in opposition to the measure was from a Democrat senator.

If approved by the full Senate and married with parallel legislation in the House, the bill would require major cutbacks in US emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

The Senate bill faces further work and likely revisions in at least four other Senate committees before it can go to the Senate floor for a vote. In its present form, analysts say the cap-and-trade measure likely could not win the 60 votes needed to get major bills through the 100-seat Senate.

US general business, the broader manufacturing sector and agricultural interests have joined most chemical makers, refiners and energy firms in opposition to the climate change bill.

Industry and business interests warn that forced cutbacks in US emissions will drive energy prices much higher - a point generally conceded by the bill’s proponents, including President Barack Obama - and drive still more US manufacturing offshore.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said that the Senate committee’s action was “inconceivable and indefensible”.

Led by Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California), Democrats on the panel used a parliamentary procedure in what is called a “mark-up” session to vote the bill through while all Republican members of the committee boycotted the proceeding.

Republican members of the panel refused to take part, saying that neither they nor Democrat members could rightly vote on the measure without getting a full cost analysis of the bill by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Boxer had declined to postpone the mark-up session in order to give EPA the four weeks it needed for the cost analysis, saying that the study was not necessary.

Because of the parliamentary procedure, the bill was approved without debate and without amendments, even by Democrats.

“The committee’s so-called mark-up of this important bill - during which no debate was heard, no amendments were considered and many legislators’ views were not heard - was a sham,” said NPRA president Charles Drevna.

“Given the enormous implications of this legislation, the American people deserve a full, open and honest debate on the bill’s potential merits and consequences,” Drevna added.

American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard also slammed the committee action, warning that the measure - also known as the Kerry-Boxer bill - “could destroy millions of American jobs and drive up fuel prices, punishing everyone who drives, flies or takes a bus or train”.

Drevna charged that Boxer and other Democrats on the committee “are more concerned with an artificial deadline associated with the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen than with the bill’s impact on the American economy”.

Boxer is on record as wanting to have a Senate climate change bill approved in time for the 7 December UN climate meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, where plans are to be laid for an international climate agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Treaty.

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