Oil spill sinks climate bill - US senator

07 May 2010 21:00  [Source: ICIS news]

Climate bill dead, says senatorWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Cap-and-trade climate legislation is dead and probably cannot be revived until after Congress resolves concerns about the safety of offshore drilling, the leading Senate Republican advocate for a climate bill said on Friday.

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) said the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico “creates new policy and political challenges not envisioned in our original discussions”.

“In light of this, I believe it would be wise to pause the process and reassess where we stand,” Graham said in a statement.

Graham had been working for months with Senators John Kerry (Democrat-Massachusetts) and Joe Lieberman (Independent-Connecticut) to craft a climate change and energy bill that would attract both Democrat and Republican support in the Senate.

The US House passed a climate bill last year, but it was considered too extreme to have any chance of approval by the Senate where support of at least 60 of the chamber’s 100 members is needed to pass major or controversial legislation.

The Senate compromise energy and climate bill developed by Kerry, Graham and Lieberman - sometimes called the KGL bill - has not been formally disclosed, but it is said to feature three main elements designed to win 60 or more votes in the Senate.

According to sources, the KGL bill would put a cap on US emissions of greenhouse gases and mandate continuing reductions in those emissions over a five-year period.

Such a limit on greenhouse gas emissions has long been favoured by Democrats. To garner Republican support, the KGL bill included provisions and incentives for broader development of US nuclear power and exploration for and production of oil and gas in US offshore waters other than the Gulf of Mexico.

But the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf and the resulting massive oil spill has triggered major defections among Democrats who previously were willing to support the KGL bill’s offshore energy provisions.

Several coastal state senators and others have said they would not now vote for a climate bill that included any offshore energy development. Some also have called for a permanent federal ban on offshore drilling.

“It doesn’t take long for one to conclude that opposition to expanded offshore drilling ... has grown among certain Senate Democrats,” Graham said on Friday. “Some have even declared energy legislation ‘dead on arrival’ if it contains an expansion of offshore drilling.”

He said the Senate should at some time “move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance of success” in working out an energy and climate bill.

“Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment,” Graham said.

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