Friday, January 05, 2007

Bingaman seeks middle ground in global warming debate

From Congress Daily:

ENVIRONMENT
Bingaman Shops Global Warming Language For Discussion

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Bingaman is fine-tuning draft global warming legislation in a bid to stake out the middle ground in the debate. A staff discussion draft floated to some senators and lobbyists aims to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 2013 levels by 2020, while also accounting for projected economic output. It aims to lower greenhouse gas "intensity," which is derived by dividing greenhouse gas emissions by the forecasted gross domestic product for a given year. Environmental groups prefer a more stringent plan; industry critics of a similar Bingaman bill last Congress said it still would significantly harm the economy while producing negligible environmental benefits. "He's definitely staking out the middle," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental group. "But I think it will be helpful in moving the debate forward." Bingaman and other supporters of mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will battle many Republicans, the Bush administration and others who favor voluntary, incentive-based approaches to curbing global warming.

Supporters of Bingaman's draft say it more aggressively lowers emissions and increases the maximum penalty for exceeding emission limits than under a 2005 bill he filed. Both the staff draft and the 2005 bill allows credits to be traded between facilities while initially limiting to $7 per ton the amount a facility would have to pay for exceeding emission limits. But Bingaman's draft plan proposes to expedite the increase of that "safety valve" annually by taking inflation into account, which his 2005 bill did not do. Both bills cover the gamut of industrial emitters of greenhouse gasses, including petroleum refineries, coal mines, electric utilities and natural gas shippers and pipelines.

Bingaman has been trying to find a bipartisan solution with Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Pete Domenici, R-N.M., but the two appeared far apart last Congress when Domenici chaired the committee. Domenici is one of several senators that Bingaman is in discussions with, sources said...

Bingaman's bill will be one of a flurry of global warming proposals expected to be introduced, and Senate Majority Leader Reid has promised to bring global warming legislation to the floor this year. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Boxer and House Government Reform Chairman Waxman probably will introduce similar bills that have had the backing of House Speaker Pelosi and environmental groups. Boxer starting this month will hold several global warming hearings in her committee.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., who takes over the redefined Environment and Public Works Clean Air, Nuclear Plant Security and Community Development Subcommittee, is expected to reintroduce a bipartisan plan that would limit carbon dioxide emissions to current levels through 2010 and force power plants to reduce emissions to 2001 levels by 2015. He has the support of three Senate Republicans and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who previously voted against mandatory carbon caps. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., will again offer a plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Their plan last Congress was opposed by environmental groups and Boxer because it promoted nuclear energy.

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