Saturday, July 24, 2010

Climate bill dead in the water; Next up, attack on EPA rules

(Photo of U.S. Capitol Building from Flickr and photographer wallyg)

You can kiss a climate bill goodbye, for 2010 and likely for the foreseeable future.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has read the tea leaves and seen the time and the votes aren’t there. So instead he is offering a pitiful oil spill response and energy efficiency bill. He thinks he can get 60 votes for that, but others aren’t even sure.

Gone is a price on carbon. Gone is a renewable electricity standard (RES) of 15%, which was scorned by enviros as far too weak when it passed out of Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) energy committee a year ago. Now it looks pretty good.

Without a price on carbon and an RES, clean energy won’t have the impetus needed to make a dent in the fossil fuel monopoly.

Reid’s bill, to be unveiled Monday, is expected to include:
• A spill response eliminating or raising the $75M liability cap, probably to $10B, plus some rig safety rules.
• HomeStar energy-efficiency retrofitting.
• Natural gas truck incentives.
• Funds for land and water conservation.

Now it’s up to the EPA
The only silver lining in this disastrous thunder cloud is that the EPA can begin regulating large sources of emissions, and states can continue their own programs.

But a new study by the World Resource Institute says those would only cut greenhouse gases 14% by 2020, instead of the 17% expected in the Kerry-Lieberman bill and promised by Obama at the world meeting in Copenhagen.

Republicans, and some Democratic Senators, are hoping to handcuff the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act. If they succeed, emissions would be cut just 6-9%, the study says. And there’s no way – without additional measures – to come close to the 80% reduction needed by 2050.

Dem Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) has a bill, which Reid promised to bring up for a vote, which would delay EPA action for two years. (It’s not like we’re in any hurry here.) Six other Dems are co-sponsoring that bill. In case any of them are supposed to represent you, they are Dorgan and Conrad of N.D., McCaskill (Mo.) Webb (Va.), Johnson (S.C.) and Nelson (Neb.)

A companion bill in the House is likely to be blocked by Dem leadership. And there’s always an Obama veto. So in all likelihood the EPA will be able to proceed in January, requiring new plants to use the best available technology to cut GHG.

There’s a GOP energy bill too
Just in case you thought Reid’s bill is as low as we could go, Republicans will offer an energy bill of their own that focuses (of course) on offshore drilling, lifting the deepwater drilling moratorium for those that meet new inspection criteria, making 37.5% revenue sharing with states immediate rather than waiting till 2017, setting up a more industry-friendly liability program, and reorganizing the former Minerals Management Service.

Nothing here about energy efficiency or natural gas vehicles.

Who wins, who loses?
So, despite the catastrophic Gulf spill and the sweltering heat, which should remind us of what’s in store, Big Oil and Coal have handily won this round.

There are a lot of losers:

Too bad, House of Representatives, which passed a decent bill last summer, that will now die.

Too bad, Sens. Kerry and Lieberman, who spent much of the past year-and-a-half trying to gain support for a mild but comprehensive climate bill.

Too bad, corporations, that want some certainty about regulations in the future.

Too bad, environmental groups, for all the resources spent pleading our case.

Too bad, clean energy businesses that won’t get a level playing field.

And too bad, world, that is waiting for the United States to lead, or at least not to drag everyone else down.

Too bad, you and me and our children and grandchildren.

It’s really, really too bad.

(Sources: Greenwire, E&E Daily, E&E News PM, The Hill)

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