Prospects Seem to Fade for Prompt Senate Action on Climate Change

Prospects Seem to Fade for Prompt Senate Action on Climate Change

August 16, 2009 15:41

It’s only been six weeks since the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed broad-sweeping climate and energy legislation, but signs are emerging already that rougher sledding is ahead for the measure in the U.S. Senate. 

Just over a week ago, a consortium of 10 Democratic Senators from mostly Midwestern “rust belt” states wrote to President Barack Obama, expressing their strong support for adding measures to the bill, The American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454), to ensure the strength and viability of American manufacturing.

“Any climate change legislation must prevent the export of jobs and related greenhouse gas emissions to countries that fail to take actions to combat the threat of global warming comparable to those taken by the United States,” the Senators wrote in the August 6th missive to the President.  “It is important that such a bill include provisions to maintain a level playing field for American manufacturing.”

The Senators suggested short- and long-term measures to assist U.S. manufacturers and ensure they do not bear the brunt of climate change policy.

Meanwhile, while HR 2454 would provide incentives to the coal-fired electric generation sector of the energy industry, including billions to support development of carbon capture and sequestration technology and an allocation of 35% of the free emission allowances to keep coal-fired generators running years into the future, there are increasing signs that the natural gas sector, and certain Democratic Senators from natural gas producing states, are angling to petition for other changes to HR 2454 to protect natural gas interests.

In a report published August 17, 2009 by Inside FERC, a Platt’s publication, staffers for Senators from Louisiana and Arkansas are quoted as saying that they believe that natural gas will play an increasing role in promoting U.S. energy independence from foreign oil, and that they are seeking substantial changes to HR 2454 to promote natural gas industry interests.

Given the obvious Congressional focus in Washington on debating the Obama Administration’s health insurance reform initiatives, Senate Democrats seem to be lacking momentum in addressing HR 2454, especially given the recent regional interests being advocated by the coalition of Democratic Senators from the rust belt states and the Senate Democrats seeking to make major changes to climate legislation to favor the natural gas industry.

For readers of this blog, these developments should come as no surprise.  As reported here in June, 2008, FERC Commissioner Hon. Philip D. Moeller predicted then that it would be at least the year 2011 before any climate legislation clears the Congress and gets signed into law by the President.  See

It will be interesting to see what really happens in Senate debates when the Senators return from the August recess, especially since President Obama has been pressing for timely action on climate change in advance of the December conference in Copenhagen on global climate change sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme.  See the following web link for more on the Copenhagen climate conference.


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The business case for the development of renewable energy projects, from biodiesel and ethanol to wind, solar, and distributed generation, is more compelling than ever as tax and regulatory incentives combine to attract investments. Emerging issues in environmental law and increasingly recognized principles of corporate social responsibility are encouraging public companies to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, install clean energy alternatives, and invest overseas in projects under the Kyoto Protocol to respond to climate change concerns.

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