President Obama’s meeting with 23 senators of both parties at the White House on Tuesday appears not to have moved either side on comprehensive energy and climate legislation. But from various reports, a new bill being drafted by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), which seeks to limit a cap-and-trade program to just the utility sector, seems to gaining traction in Washington.
According to a White House–issued summary on the meeting, the president said he still believed “the best way … to transition to a clean energy economy is with a bill that makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses by putting a price on pollution—because when companies pollute, they should be responsible for the costs to the environment and their contribution to climate change.”
The summary noted that not all of the senators agreed with this approach. There was agreement, however, on the sense of urgency required to move forward with the legislation. The summary also said that Obama is confident that “something” will be done this year.
The New York Times reported that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was willing to make concessions. Foremost among them that would be to scale back the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act to utilities, a move that was “tentatively embraced” by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine).
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), meanwhile, said in a statement on Tuesday that the meeting demonstrated that broad climate change legislation is probably dead. But Voinovich, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), said, “there seemed to be consensus” that a bill by Sen. Bingaman “may be a viable path forward in the Senate.”
“I do not support an economy-wide piece of legislation,” Voinovich said. “As far as a cap and trade program for the electric power sector, I understand that there is no consensus in the utility industry.”
Sen. Bingaman, who is the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, told The New York Times that he had done “some work” on a utility-only cap-and-trade bill but had not introduced anything yet. He added that it has some “significant differences” from the Kerry-Lieberman cap-and-trade measure.
It is unclear if Bingaman is working with other senators on the measure. According to The Hill, Bingaman is not working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on the utility proposal, nor has he been asked by Reid to draft legislation. He reportedly said he has talked to “various senators” about it, including Republicans, but that he is “not taking a lead” on the overall Senate climate strategy
Bingaman was the lead author of a bipartisan energy bill that cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last summer by a 15–8 vote. That bill included a renewable electricity standard and offshore drilling provisions but no cap on carbon dioxide emissions.
Sources: Whitehouse.gov, Sen. George Voinovich, The New York Times, The Hill, POWERnews