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Kerry, Graham, Lieberman to unveil climate bill


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By Juliet Eilperin

In their last and best shot at enacting a climate bill this year, Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) plan to unveil a draft Monday that will provide a streamlined system for capping greenhouse gas emissions from the utilities and transport sector but still aims to reduce the nation's carbon dioxide output by 17 percent in 10 years.

The measure offers numerous concessions to businesses, including allowing manufacturing and energy-intensive industries four years before they would be subject to the carbon cap; provisions for offshore oil drilling; $10 billion for the coal industry to capture and store its carbon emissions; and enough loan guarantees and incentives to provide for the construction of 12 nuclear power plants.

"Because of the broad-based industry support that I expect the bill will garner, both at the rollout as well as beyond, I think this is the best path forward," said Fred Krupp, who heads the Environmental Defense Fund.

In a telephone briefing Thursday for business supporters, Kerry said the Edison Electric Institute -- whose members generate the bulk of the nation's electricity -- would endorse the measure, along with three of the nation's five biggest oil and gas companies. He did not name the three oil companies, but a source familiar with the negotiations said Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips would support the bill.

Significant sections of the bill remained blank as of Friday evening, according to several sources, and that lack of specificity could deter some senators and many business interests from endorsing the measure at the outset.

"I'd like to support it, but I have to look at it," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), adding that she was concerned about what it would do to home heating oil and gas prices. "In this economy, we have to see how much we can do."

One of the most complex areas has been the question of how to limit carbon emissions from transportation. Initially the senators had hoped to create a linked fee on fuels that would be tied to the price of carbon, but that idea came under attack last week as a gas tax.

"If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.). "I don't care whether you call it a linked fee. It is a tax on energy."

To avoid that pitfall, the bill's authors are going to require oil and gas producers to buy special, non-tradable emissions allowances, at a price set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It would be pegged to the carbon market and must be retired at a certain date.

"We're not going to raise gas prices," Graham said.

To keep utility costs from rising too high, two-thirds of the revenue generated by auctioning off pollution allowances for utilities would be returned to consumers through local electricity distributors.

And in an effort to win over moderate Republicans, such as Sen. George V. Voinovich (Ohio), the bill will preempt both the states' and the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, as long as emitters comply with the standards outlined in the measure. The agency will monitor and enforce compliance with the law.

The measure aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels in a decade and 80 percent by 2050.

Thomas J. Gibson, president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said inclusion of the emissions cap means that someone in the business sector would suffer because the number of pollution allowances the federal government could give away are limited. "If the utilities and refineries are going to be the winners, who are going to be the losers?" he asked.

Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, said the bill constituted the kind of compromises that often take place when crafting major legislation.

"The bill is ultimately about the grand bargain of pulling together national security interests with environmental concerns, and an economic job program to create clean-energy jobs," he said, adding that his group was still evaluating its position on the measure.

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Senators postpone climate bill unveiling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Monday's unveiling of a compromise Senate climate bill was postponed on Saturday, Democratic Senator John Kerry said, after a dispute arose over unrelated immigration reform legislation.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier on Saturday he would have to pull out of the bipartisan climate change effort because of concerns Democrats would push forward with a debate on immigration reform, rather than the climate change bill, in the Senate.

Kerry said he hoped to keep working for passage of a climate bill.

He said that after more than six months of detailed meetings with Graham and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, "we believe that we had reached" an agreement on the details of a bill to reduce smokestack emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with global warming.

They were planning to outline those details at a news conference on Monday that would have been attended by some environmental and industry representatives.

"But regrettably, external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily" the Senate's work on the climate bill that also would have expanded U.S. nuclear power generation and offshore oil drilling.

The wide-ranging climate bill already faced an uphill battle in the Senate, even before it became enmeshed in a partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans over immigration reform.

But with only a few months left before November's congressional elections, senators are trying to determine where their efforts should be focused, with the elections playing an important role in their decision.

Earlier on Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Graham wrote a letter to his colleagues informing them that unless Democrats stepped back from plans to move ahead with immigration reform rather than the climate change bill, the South Carolina Republican would drop out of the three-senator working group.

Without Graham on board, efforts to pass climate control legislation could be doomed as he was expected to work to win more Republican support for the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement on Saturday that immigration and climate change were both important to Americans.

"They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other," Reid said.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Graham withdraws support for climate legislation

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The effort to enact climate and energy legislation this year suffered a critical blow Saturday when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), the key Republican proponent of the bill, said he was unwilling to move ahead because of Democrats' push for immigration reform.

The move forced the other two authors of the bill, Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), to cancel a news conference planned for Monday at which they would have unveiled the climate and energy plan they negotiated with Graham, the only Republican who had been participating in the discussions.

In an interview Saturday, Graham said he did not see how the Senate could pass any climate and energy bill this year if Senate Democratic leaders and President Obama pushed for immigration reform, as they suggested they would last week.

"The political environment that we needed to have a chance [to pass the bill] has been completely destroyed" by the push for immigration reform, Graham said. "What was hard has become impossible. I don't mind doing hard things. I just don't want to do impossible and stupid things."

Although the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Kerry and Lieberman said they would continue to press ahead with the effort, Graham's departure greatly undermines Democrats' prospects of picking up the handful of Republican votes that would be needed for passage.

"If Senator Graham leaves the effort, a long shot becomes a no-shot," said Joe Stanko, who heads up government relations for the law firm Hunton & Williams and represents several industries that would face new federal regulation under a climate bill.

Graham said he has become convinced that Democrats have decided to push for an immigration overhaul in an effort to mobilize Hispanic voters, a key political bloc, and that only a focused effort on a climate and energy bill could ensure its passage.

Late last week, Reid raised the idea of bringing up immigration legislation before an energy bill, and President Obama on Friday criticized Arizona's tough new immigration law and said Congress must act on immigration or risk leaving the door open to "irresponsibility by others."

But Graham, who spent weeks working with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on an immigration measure that will appeal to both parties, wrote in an open letter Saturday to leaders of the climate effort, "Moving forward on immigration -- in this hurried, panicked manner -- is nothing more than a cynical political ploy."

Graham said he had spoken to Reid on Saturday and warned him that he would bolt unless he was assured that the Senate would take up energy legislation first.

"What's happened here is mid-terms are on us and Harry Reid's in a state with a heavy Hispanic vote," Graham said.

In a statement, Reid said he will not allow Graham "to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people."

"As I have said, I am committed to trying to enact comprehensive clean energy legislation this session of Congress. Doing so will require strong bipartisan support and energy could be next if it's ready," Reid said. "I have also said we will try to pass comprehensive immigration reform. This, too, will require bipartisan support and significant committee work that has not yet begun."

Reid spokesman Jim Manley called the suggestion that Reid had factored political considerations into his scheduling "absolutely ridiculous."

"At the beginning of this Congress, Senator Reid considered immigration reform among the Senate's top priorities, and it continues to be a high priority for him. Nothing has changed, except that maybe the situation in Arizona again highlights why we need to fix our broken immigration system," he said.

The White House declined to indicate whether it would address Graham's concerns, issuing a statement by climate and energy czar Carol M. Browner saying: "We believe the only way to make progress on these priorities is to continue working as we have thus far in a bipartisan manner to build more support for both comprehensive energy independence and immigration reform legislation."

Kerry said he would continue to press for passage of comprehensive climate legislation.

"Joe and I will continue to work together and are hopeful that Lindsey will rejoin us once the politics of immigration are resolved," he said in a statement. "The White House and Senate leadership have told us . . . that this is the year for action, and until they tell us otherwise we're pressing forward."

link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/24/AR2010042402193_pf.html

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