Cap and trade proposal passes committee, moves to full Senate

| 11/9/2009

Climate change legislation that is also known as cap and trade has advanced from the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, albeit with some controversy.

Cap and trade would establish carbon emission limits for several business sectors and is expected to cause sharp increases in fuel and diesel prices. A credit system would allow businesses that operate above limits to purchase credits and businesses with leftover credits to sell on the open market.

The House narrowly approved a cap-and-trade bill in July, and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and John Kerry, D-MA, introduced companion legislation in the Senate in early October.

Late last week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the proposed Boxer-Kerry bill, S. 1733 – the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act – for consideration at the full Senate level.

The bill is expected to be combined with other related climate change legislation for consideration by the full Senate.

Climate change legislation isn’t likely to get full approval anytime soon, however.

Mike Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, said the cap-and-trade issue has “miles to go.”

“As we head into winter, the Congress does have miles to go on this cap-and-trade legislation,” Joyce told Land Line on Monday. “They’ve got six committees with different jurisdiction on the Senate side. We continue to have bad economic figures come out monthly, and the American public is concerned about our economic well-being.

“There are some that argue that climate change could be helpful to our economic recovery. But I think those voices are going to be in the minority if and when this bill does make it to the Senate floor, which could be next year or even 2011.”

The Senate has two committee meetings slated to discuss climate change early this week.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs.” Also, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled “Policy Options for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

Last week, Senate Republicans boycotted Boxer’s committee meeting, though that didn’t stop Boxer from presiding over an 11-1 vote to approve the climate change legislation. Republicans have since accused her of breaking committee rules, which require at least two members of a minority party to be present when meeting.

White House officials have hinted that if cap and trade isn’t approved in Congress, the EPA could regulate greenhouse gas emissions by all businesses.

Republicans acknowledged the threat over the weekend.

“The actions the EPA has taken and its plans to regulate greenhouse gases are a serious concern," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), according to the Wall Street Journal. “However, EPA’s actions should not scare Congress into passing bad legislation.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer