Monday, March 29, 2010

Senate puts lipstick on cap and trade; states not impressed

I have written extensively about climate change legislation over the last two years, and you can easily search this site by entering "cap and trade" "climategate" or "EPA carbon" to read those entries, if you are so inclined.  The conventional wisdom in recent months has been that cap and trade legislation is permanently stalled in the Senate in the wake of leaked emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (aka Climategate), multiple erroneous or fraudulent data citations from the U.N. IPCC, and the worst economy since the Great Depression.  Don't believe it.  From The Financial Times (UK):
Three senior US lawmakers are piecing together a sweeping bipartisan energy and climate bill, which looks set to include sweeteners to galvanise support among Republicans and industry groups.

The proposed legislation, encouraged by President Barack Obama, dilutes a climate bill that stalled last year in the Senate. The senators have hosted meetings with industry groups over the past two weeks, revealing details about their plan that would cap carbon emissions while expanding offshore oil drilling and nuclear power generation.

Nearly six months have passed since the Senate’s last climate bill failed to win over conservatives and moderates, a political stalemate that cast a shadow on America’s presence at the Copenhagen climate summit. But some Democrats say the passage of healthcare reform has opened the door for climate change legislation, while acknowledging tradeoffs will be needed to secure 60 Senate votes. “They know that to pass a comprehensive bill they will have to ease concerns of some special interests and mid-western senators whose states have manufacturing-oriented economies,” said Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal think-tank.

Environmental groups are divided over the bill, with some decrying the push to pre-empt existing state and federal greenhouse gas regulations. But many moderate groups are withholding judgment until the bill is introduced, saying concessions to industry bodies will be necessary. According to people briefed by the senators, the bill aims to cut carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 17 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, largely by implementing separate caps on utilities and manufacturers. The federal government would sell separate pollution permits to each sector, using a “hard price collar” to limit greenhouse gas allowances to between $10 (£6.70) and $30 per ton, and committing to flood the market with credits if the price ceiling is exceeded.

The bill’s sponsors – John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, Joseph Lieberman, the Independent from Connecticut, and Lindsay Graham, the South Carolina Republican – said the new sectoral approach would begin imposing carbon caps on utilities in 2012 and manufacturers in 2016.
If legislative initiatives fail, the Obama administration will certainly fall back to its backup plan of using the unelected regulatory agencies of the federal government to do his bidding.  Thankfully, the States are already mobilized to block this statist effort:
Illinois state Rep. Dan Reitz, a Democrat and a former coal miner, is worried that pending federal climate change rules will cripple the economy, and he wants Congress to step in and stop it.

Reitz, who represents the 116th District in southern Illinois, launched his own assault against U.S. EPA climate rules when he introduced a resolution urging Congress to postpone greenhouse gas regulations for factories, power plants and other so-called stationary emission sources. The Illinois House approved his resolution earlier this month.

"I believe that Congress should adopt legislation if we're going to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources," Reitz said in an interview. "We should be able to do that within the context of a bill and not do it within the regulatory measures that are out there right now."

Reitz is among at least 25 legislators in 17 states who have introduced measures aimed at blocking or limiting EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Five of those bills came from Democrats.

At least seven such measures have been adopted. In addition to Reitz's resolution in Illinois, legislators in Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah have passed measures encouraging Congress to step in and block EPA climate rules or for the agency to halt its regulatory plans.

EPA this week is planning to issue the first national greenhouse gas standards for automobiles, a rule that will ultimately require the agency to regulate stationary sources' emissions of the heat-trapping gases. The Supreme Court ordered EPA in 2007 to determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health. EPA did so last year, paving the way for new emission rules.

The Obama administration and environmentalists argue EPA is compelled by the law and by science to begin clamping down on the emissions. EPA officials insist that they can do it in a way that won't cripple the economy.
Reitz, an elected Democratic legislator and former coal miner from the President's home state of Illinois has the audacity to challenge federal climate change regulations.  That shows personal courage and gives me hope for our Republic.

Call your Representatives and Senators and tell them to vote "no" on the new and improved cap and tax.

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