Voting right on climate change, take two

Yo, Democrats. You were given a mandate this past November. Please act like it.

Democratic leaders pushing to cap greenhouse gas emissions were working Wednesday to appease key lawmakers who want to ease the financial burden that the climate change plan would impose on consumers and refiners.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who plans to formally introduce his climate change bill today, said that he expects a new compromise deal will have enough votes on his 59-member House Energy and Commerce Committee to be approved by the panel next week.

But Waxman spent much of Wednesday huddling with wavering Democratic lawmakers on the panel to shore up support for the measure. The skeptics included Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez, who want concessions for refiners in the Lone Star State, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who wants tax relief for low-income households to defray expected higher energy costs.

The cornerstone of the bill is a plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions blamed for contributing to global warming.

Under the compromise, greenhouse gas emissions would be capped at 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 — a looser standard than the 20 percent reduction Waxman had originally sought. That proposed cap is more rigorous than the 14 percent goal President Barack Obama has sought or the 6 percent target advocated by some committee Democrats.

To exceed the limits, power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other industries would have to buy emissions allowances on a new carbon market. But after weeks of negotiations, committee Democrats have agreed to give away 35 percent of the allowances to electric utilities, 15 percent to trade-sensitive industries such as timber and steel manufacturing and a small number to the auto industry.

Still undecided was the question of how many allowances should be given to refiners, with the final number likely to rest between 1 percent and 5 percent.

Green, the unofficial leader of a group of oil-patch Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was pushing the higher number.

He said he wanted to vote for a bill that limits CO2 emissions, “but does it in a way that is reasonable.”

“There’s some flexibility” in the allowance allocation, Green said, “but 1 percent is not in the ballpark.”

After meeting with Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Gonzalez said he was “feeling really good” that he would get enough concessions for refiners and would vote for the legislation.

As Yglesias notes, even with all the concessions, this is still a decent bill. Could be a better one, but it could have been a much worse one, too. It’s still a big step forward. Yet it’s frustrating to realize how much has been given away, in a way that will place a larger share of the cost of these necessary changes on those who can least afford it.

We’ve discussed this before. Rep. Green is a fine Congressman, who has groomed a large number of very capable proteges. He’s also an electoral juggernaut, and you don’t get to be that way without being responsive to your constituents. So if you live in CD29 and you want Rep. Green to do the right thing, it’s up to you to tell him so. A diverse group of activists will be gathering in his district today at noon to urge him to support climate change legislation. Click on to read about this and participate if you can.

UPDATE: Looks like we have a deal.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., signed off on the compromise with Texas Democrats Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez. The cornerstone of their deal was a commitment to donate at least 2 percent of valuable carbon dioxide emissions permits to refiners.

The compromise on refiners — tentatively agreed to late Thursday but still subject to last-minute negotiations — could help Waxman and Markey steer their contentious climate change measure through the 59-member Energy and Commerce Committee next week.

The measure also is buoyed by a new agreement among many committee Democrats on core parts of the bill, including a plan to freely give away more than 50 percent of those emission allowances to electric power distributors, trade-sensitive industries and automakers.

“We are now one huge step toward creating a 100-year solution to the carbon problem … that will protect consumers,” Markey said.


Green of Houston and Gonzalez of San Antonio said that with the changes aimed at helping refiners and other modifications, they expected to vote for the legislation next week.

The pair, whose districts are home to the plants and headquarters of major U.S. refiners, had been pushing for 5 percent of emission allowances to be given to the industry.

Under the deal Green and Gonzalez reached with Waxman and Markey, the free allowances for refiners could begin phasing out as early as 2014; refiners would eventually have to purchase all of the allowances they need from the federal government in an auction.

By contrast, the free allowances for electric utilities would phase out over five years beginning in 2025.

Green said the deal also would delay the implementation of a proposed low-carbon fuel standard until at least 2023 — a change from Waxman and Markey’s initial plan to phase in the standard as early as 2014.

The low-carbon standard, designed to promote advanced biofuels made from plant materials, would require escalating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels.

I’ll need to see what the reviews are of this, but it sounds like a positive step. Getting this passed in the first place is the big thing; it can always be tweaked later. Kudos to all for working through this.

Houstonians tell Congressman Gene Green to represent them, not polluters

Houston – A coalition of environmental, social justice, labor, health, and religious leaders and organizations will urge Congressman Gene Green to work in the best interests of his constituents, not the oil industry, to strengthen, not weaken, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

Who: Religious, community, educational, and labor leaders, teachers and students, environmentalists, scientists, health professionals, business owners, city officials

When: Friday, May 15, 2009 12:00 PM, Noon

Where: Hartman Park, 9311 East Ave. P, Houston, TX 77012

Why: Frustrated over Congressman Green’s repeated refusals to meet with them to discuss the need for strong global legislation, Green’s constituents along with other Houstonians will stage a press conference to highlight the necessity for reducing greenhouse gases and benefits of doing so. Green seems dedicated to serving the polluters in his district for which he wishes to obtain special allowances and allocations before he will ever consider supporting the critical climate change legislation that would serve as a lifeline for his district. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, currently in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is critical to the future of this planet. Congressman Green sits on that committee, and his support is crucial to the strengthening and passage of this legislation. Harris County happens to be the leading emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation, the overwhelming majority of which emanates from the industrial facilities which Green is trying to protect.

More Info:

The press conference will be held in front of the very petrochemical refineries Green is seeking to allow to pollute, in part, for free. The free pollution permits that Green seeks for the facilities will mean more greenhouse gas pollution and dirtier air for his constituents and would hurt the same workers and middle and low-income families which Green says he is looking out for. Every dollar that is given away to the petrochemical companies in the form of free pollution allowances, is another dollar that could have gone to middle and low-income families in the form of rebates raised through the auctioning of permits, to help defray the higher energy costs associated with carbon regulation. The money raised from auctioning the permits will also go towards aiding workers in carbon-intensive industries to transition to a low-carbon based economy. Claims from Green and the oil industry that the petrochemical facilities will simply pack up and move their operations to China or another country where carbon regulation has not been enacted in order to save the company money are simply untrue. It will cost far more to shutdown operations in Houston, build refineries elsewhere and ship the refined products back to America than it ever would to simply purchase the pollution permits.

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One Response to Voting right on climate change, take two

  1. Linkmeister says:

    Setting an example doesn’t hurt, either. Particularly for China, which, Krugman points out after visiting there for a week, is still building two coal plants a week.

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