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Three Prominent Republicans Care About Climate Change, Sort Of

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

In recent weeks, three prominent Republicans — Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and Jon Huntsman — have publicly affirmed their belief in climate change and the need to reduce pollution. This is good news!

But as far as I can tell, they don’t have a plan to address the issue between the three of them.

The most recent was Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor with a tendency to play both sides of every issue. At a town hall style campaign event in New Hampshire on Friday, Romney said:

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.

This isn’t the first time Mitt Romney has sounded like an environmentalist. In 2003, he told his constituents that he would not “not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people,” while pointing at a coal plant.

But six weeks ago he told Greta Van Susteren that he would lower gas prices by drilling for oil and burning lots of coal:

Well, you get the prices down by convincing people who are investing in gasoline futures, so to speak, the speculators — you let them understand that America is going to be producing enough energy for our needs. And that means we’re going to start drilling for oil. We’re going to use our natural gas resources, which are now extraordinarily plentiful, given new technology. We’re going to use our coal resources. Of course, we’re going to pursue all the renewables, but you have to have oil and gas to power America’s economy.

And at today’s town hall at the University of New Hampshire, Romney downplayed clean energy and electric cars. “I love solar and wind (power) but they don’t drive cars. And we’re not all going to drive Chevy Volts,” he said. He also warned against working to solve the problem unless China and Brazil were participating in the solution, reminding the crowd that “it’s not called American warming, it’s called global warming.”

Last week it was Chris Christie, the New Jersey Governor who is being recruited into the presidential race by a group of wealthy Iowans. In an impressive speech, Christie talked the talk:

When you have over 90% of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts. Climate science is complex though and we’re just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans’ role in all of this. But we know enough to know that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward, we need to work to put policies in place that act at reducing those contributing factors.

But at the same time, Christie announced that New Jersey would be leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state, voluntary cap and trade system designed to reduce emissions. The New Jersey Sierra Club credited the governor with destroying “the first and most successful greenhouse gas reduction program in the country.” Brad Plumer convincingly argues that Christie had to distance himself from climate policy in order to play on the national stage.

In mid-May it was Jon Hunstman, the former Utah Governor and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China, forging the path that Chris Christie and Mitt Romney later followed. “This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring,” he told Time Magazine. “If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community.”

If he had stopped there, that would have been fine. He meant climatologist and the 90% figure is low (it is more like 97%), but no major harm was done. But then he added, “though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.” Asked about cap and trade, Huntsman kept digging. “Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working; it hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago,” he said, concluding, “much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.”

Romney and Christie both went further than Huntsman did, saying we have to reduce emissions. And Huntsman and Christie both cited the same inaccurate 90% figure, with Huntsman even paraphrasing Al Gore with the doctor/scientist comparison. But what sticks out the most about their remarks is that all three are opposed to doing anything productive to solve the problem. If any of these three has a plan for dealing with climate change that doesn’t include cap and trade, a carbon tax or massive investments in clean energy, they should explain what their plan is and how it would work.

Rick Santorum, The Only Consistently Anti-Environmental Candidate

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

Rick Santorum announced yesterday that next week, in a Western Pennsylvania coal field, he’ll announce he is running for President. The leaked announcement seems to have heavily emphasized the coal field angle, since several major outlets mentioned it prominently.

On Twitter, Bill Scher asked a compelling question: “Can he win by tarring Mitt, Newt, Tim, Jon w/past cap-trade support?”

I don’t think it will win him the nomination, but there is a segment of the Republican electorate that could be convinced to oppose Mitt/Newt/Tim/Jon solely because of their past support of cap and trade. Anti-environmentalism has become a matter of faith in the modern Republican party, so predictably, every 2012 Republican presidential candidate has reversed their previous support of addressing climate change.

Mitt Romney went from denouncing coal jobs “that kill people” to opposing environmental laws because they are “bad for business and cost jobs.” Tim Pawlenty went from “come on Congress, cap greenhouses gases now” to “it is a really bad idea, it is going to be harmful to the economy. Newt Gingrich went from advocating for solutions alongside to Nancy Pelosi in an Al Gore funded TV ad to “It is inconceivable that any threat from global warming is big enough to justify destroying the American economy.” Even Sarah Palin thought climate change was a threat that needed to be addressed as recently as 2007.

With former energy industry lobbyist Haley Barbour now out of the picture, Santorum is now the the only consistently anti-environmental candidate Republican primary voters have to choose from.

Santorum’s anti-environmental record and pro-coal credentials have been solid throughout his career, and this might just be how the candidate tries to distinguish himself in a soon-to-be-crowded GOP field.

Consider Santorum’s June 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer piece entitled ‘Coal’ is not a dirty word if we are realistic about saving the Earth, in which he rattled off a laundry list of climate change denial canards. Or look at his appearance in Reno six weeks ago, in which he criticized President Obama and Senator Reid for their opposition to coal production. Or look to 2001, when Santorum touted coal as the future and “environmentally safe.”
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WaPo Uses Misleading Arguments to Push Flawed Oil Spill Narrative

12:48 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

The Washington Post published an article on Monday entitled, ‘Historic oil spill fails to produce gains for U.S. environmentalists.’ It was immediately picked up by several liberal bloggers whose opinion I respect, each of whom seemed to take the article’s conclusion at face value. But while the article gets some things right, it also includes several misleading lines of argument in order to bolster its attention-grabbing headline.

I’ll outline a few of those arguments below, and explain why each is so misleading.

Misleading Argument 1: While previous environmental disasters have prompted legislative action, the still-ongoing spill in the Gulf of Mexico has failed to do so.

Here is how the Washington Post article makes this argument:

Traditionally, American environmentalism wins its biggest victories after some important piece of American environment is poisoned, exterminated or set on fire. An oil spill and a burning river in 1969 led to new anti-pollution laws in the 1970s. The Exxon Valdez disaster helped create an Earth Day revival in 1990 and sparked a landmark clean-air law.

But this year, the worst oil spill in U.S. history — and, before that, the worst coal-mining disaster in 40 years — haven’t put the same kind of drive into the debate over climate change and fossil-fuel energy.

The Santa Barbara oil spill took place in January 1969. The Cuyahoga River fire took place in June 1969. Here are the major pieces of legislation that were passed in response, along with the amount of time that lapsed between the environmental disasters and their respective Congressional approval:

In contrast, it has been less than three months since the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico began. I agree with Eric Pooley, author of The Climate War, who told Eli Kintisch in an interview on Monday that "it’s too early to tell what the full impact of the BP disaster will be."

Buried at the bottom of the piece, the Post acknowledges that it may be too early for major impacts to be seen:

At 11 weeks after the spill, some historians say it’s too early to say it won’t alter national environmental politics. Adam Rome, a historian of the U.S. environmental movement at Pennsylvania State University, said that it could take a year for the public to understand what the spill has done to the gulf — and for politicians to understand what the spill has done to the public.

"If we don’t do anything then, then it’s a sign that we’ve entered into some newer, more passive mode of responding to disasters," Rome said.

Grist’s Jonathan Hiskes followed up with Rome on this. He added the following:

The Santa Barbara oil spill happened in January 1969. Right away, people were appalled. In Santa Barbara itself, the spill brought together people who had never been allied before — countercultural students and very wealthy Republicans alike were shocked. But still, it took a long time for it to lead to something more than just "we might need more regulation on offshore oil," and more than just preventing that one specific thing from occurring again.

Misleading Argument 2: Public opinion hasn’t changed in the wake of the spill.

According to the article, "Opinion polls haven’t budged much."

When it comes to offshore drilling, this is absolutely false:

  • A 6/17-6/21 WSJ/NBC poll found that 48% Americans are skeptical of Congressional candidates who support continued offshore drilling off U.S. coasts. Not increased drilling, mind you, continued drilling.
  • A 6/8-6/9 Fox News poll found that support for increased offshore drilling had dropped an incredible 26% in just two months.
  • Half a dozen polls conducted in May found that support for increased offshore drilling had dropped between nine and seventeen percent.

And when it comes to legislation intended to promote clean energy technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the public is overwhelmingly in favor:

  • A 5/25-6/1 Benenson Strategy Group Poll (PDF) found that 63% of likely voters support clean energy legislation.
  • A 6/17-6/21 WSJ/NBC poll found that 63% of Americans support clean energy legislation, ‘even if it means an increase in the cost of energy.’
  • A 6/16-6/20 NYT/CBS poll found that nearly 90 percent of Americans believe U.S. energy policy needs either ‘fundamental changes’ or ‘to be completely rebuilt.’

But have numbers on clean energy legislation budged since the spill? According to Pew’s polling, they have. In February, 50% of respondents favored (PDF, page 29) ‘setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions.’ By June this number had jumped to 66% (PDF, page 3).

If the authors of the Washington Post piece have seen polling showing that support for clean energy legislation has remained flat in recent months, they should cite it. Until they do so, their claim that the polling hasn’t budged remains unsubstantiated.

Misleading Argument 3: Gasoline usage increased between 2009 and 2010.

According to the Post story:

"In addition, U.S. government estimates show that public demand for gasoline and electric power is looking stronger now than last year at this time. If these disasters have made individuals start conserving their energy use, "it’s not something that we’ve been able to observe," said Tancred Lidderdale of the U.S. Energy Information Administration."

This is obviously due to the improving economic situation. As this EIA chart shows, U.S. liquid fuel consumption was down nearly 800,000 barrels per day in 2009:

Energy use is subject to significant variations caused by a variety of factors, not the least of which is the economy. Comparing a year in which the economy was mired in a recession to a year in which many economic factors began to improve doesn’t tell us much of anything about the impact of the oil spill.

It looks like the Post had already decided on the story they wanted to write before they bothered to look at the facts. Could the Senate have acted by now in response to the spill? Of course, but this doesn’t mean the spill hasn’t already had a profound impact on energy politics. Judging the political impact of an environmental disaster that is literally still playing out doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the first place, given the examples I cited above. If the Post insists on doing so, they should be a bit more careful with the arguments they cobble together to make their case.

Update — Brad Johnson has more on this at The Wonk Room.

The Public is Ready for Clean Energy Legislation, Is the Senate?

11:00 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

Jonathan Cohn, writing at his new must-read blog, has a fascinating piece on the policy implications of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The gist of his argument is that the public push for clean energy policy — in the form of marches on Washington and calls to Congress — is more subdued than should be expected in the wake of such a devastating environmental catastrophe, and that this dynamic is largely responsible for the Senate’s slim chances of moving comprehensive legislation this year.

While I think this argument has some merit, Cohn leaves out several key considerations.

First, I disagree with Cohn’s characterization of last weekend’s Hands Across the Sand offshore drilling protests. Using turnout estimates of 400 and 450 from two of the 814 protest locations in the United States, he concludes, "[t]hat probably means a few thousand people participated nationwide." He continues, "That’s a perfectly respectable figure in normal times. But with the nation’s worst environmental catastrophe–an oil spill, of all things–in progress? Under those circumstances, the numbers seem a little disappointing."

Those numbers do seem disappointing, but only because they are not accurate. While nationwide numbers have not yet been released, a few minutes of Googling reveals considerably higher turnout numbers. In St. Petersburg, Florida, for example, over 5,000 people turned out for Saturday’s event. Even at an extremely conservative estimate of an average of 50 people per event, the 814 events nationwide would have had over 40,000 people in attendance. Sierra Club pegs the total at tens of thousands. Either way, these numbers are quite impressive for a volunteer-led event that was planned in a matter of weeks, by my standards at least. Dave Rauschkolb, the organizer of Hands Across the Sand, isn’t overly concerned with the raw numbers. To him, the real impact is on a more human level. "Every photograph, every video, every footprint in the sand tells the story of how much Americans care about their coastal heritage," he told me by phone Wednesday evening.

Moving on, Cohn continues (emphasis mine):

We have no shortage of committed environmentalists in this country. But two months after the Deepwater Horizon rig first exploded, where are the marches on Washington? Where are the phone calls lighting up Capitol Hill switchboards? Congressional staffers I’ve contacted tell me constituent contact on climate change has increased in the last few weeks, but only incrementally.

A few points on this.

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What Role Will Senator Murkowski Play in Climate and Energy Negotiations?

6:41 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

Speaking at a sparsely-attended luncheon in Fairbanks, AK on Friday, Senator Murkowski (R-AL) touted her failed effort to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions as a ‘badge of honor.’ She went on to explain why she considered the maneuver, which went down by a 53-47 margin on June 10th, a qualified success. “We made our point. Forty-seven members of the Senate said they do not want to allow the agency to set climate change policy," she said.

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As luck would have it, another institution has plans to ‘set climate change policy’ in the weeks ahead — the United States Senate. And fortunately for Senator Murkowski, as a United States Senator, she has the power to influence that process as it plays out. By all indications, Senator Murkowski should be a leading Republican in these negotiations. In response to the announcement of a new Climate Science Center at the University of Alaska earlier this year, she rightly called the state ‘ground zero for climate change.’ Last September Murkowski told reporters that Congress needs to work on climate change but should take its time considering options. And by all accounts, the Senate has done just that in the past nine months, trying and giving up on a variety of approaches deemed too controversial to attract significant Republican support.

But now there are a several proposals and a handful of standalone measures on the table. A group of seventeen Senators — which includes Senator Murkowski — will be meeting with President Obama Tuesday to discuss a path forward. Majority Leader Reid has indicated he’ll be moving the legislation immediately after July recess.

If Senator Murkowski intends to play a constructive role in this process, her opportunity is now. Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Senator Murkowski, claims she intends to play such a role, citing her support of Senator Lugar’s energy legislation. According to Dillon, Murkowski supports "Sen. Lugar’s latest efforts to address climate." Perhaps sensing the angle I was pursuing, he added, "so any accusation that she opposes dealing with emissions is completely false."

But Dillon also made it clear that Murkowski remains firmly opposed to including a cap on carbon in the legislation. "There’s not 60 votes for cap and trade now nor has there ever been. A great number of Democrats remain opposed to a cap for economic reasons – concerns shared by many Republicans as well," he said. When asked how Senator Murkowski would like to see the Senate move forward on energy reform, Mr. Dillon was quite specific. "Sen. Murkowski believes the Senate should immediately focus on passing standalone oil spill compensation legislation to assist the victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Then it should take up the bipartisan energy bill approved by the energy committee last summer, which would address many of the president’s stated goals for a clean energy bill but would not include a cap on carbon." Curiously, he did not mention Senator Lugar’s proposal in response to this question.

The ‘bipartisan energy bill’ Dillon refers to is the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which, as David Roberts explains, amounts to ‘a minor deviation from the awful energy status quo.’ I followed up with Mr. Dillon, asking if Senator Murkowski considers ACELA sufficient to properly address climate change. I also asked how Senator Murkowski reconciles her self-professed belief in climate change with her refusal to do anything serious to address it. While he didn’t respond to either question directly, he offered this response. "The energy bill would make a real difference in our energy policy without harming the economy. The other proposals introduced this Congress do not strike the appropriate balance between environmental and economic protection. Sen. Murkowski has done more than any other Republican to improve the nation’s energy policy. She’s passed bipartisan energy policy through the committee. But she won’t support bad legislation that threatens the economy and does nothing to improve our energy policy."

It is clear that Senator Murkowski wants the Senate to pursue an extremely limited approach on climate and energy policy. Even in the face of the worst environmental disaster in American history, her opposition to taking serious steps to reduce oil consumption remains unchanged. Senators who claim to be concerned about climate change should take steps to address it in a meaningful way. Senator Murkowski’s refusal to do so puts her credibility on the issue into question. If Senator Murkowski wants to present herself as someone who is actually concerned with addressing climate change, she’ll have to do a lot better than she has so far in her career.

Why is Senator Lieberman Taking the Lead on Climate Change?

8:19 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

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Prospects for Senate passage of climate change legislation this year were already slim, but this development may be the nail in the coffin:

Leading Democratic senators tasked Joe Lieberman on Thursday with finding a compromise measure that would satisfy a diverse caucus split between doing energy-only legislation or a more comprehensive approach to climate change, Democratic aides said.

While the fact that Senator Lieberman lends his name to the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act may relieve some casual observers, he will almost certainly advocate an energy-only approach. As Chris Bowers notes, it is hard to imagine Senator Lieberman pushing for the progressive approach here. For a preview of how he’ll justify his decision to think small, we can look back to his remarks on the subject six months ago:

"I don’t think the Senate has an appetite for another such epic, polarized legislative war this session," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who met with Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday to strategize on how to enlist support for a compromise climate bill they are writing.

Now, I’m increasingly convinced that a bill that doesn’t explicitly address climate change is the best path forward this year. As unfortunate as it is, the United States Senate simply is not in the right place to do what needs to be done: put a price on carbon. Even the Kerry-Lieberman effort to lure Republican support by incorporating many Republican ideas into the legislation fell flat, failing to attract a single cosponsor. I’d be happy with a bill that made investments in clean energy and efficiency, while also holding BP accountable and tightening oil industry regulations. I’d be even happier if they moved a bill like that and allowed amendment votes on implementing a Renewable Electricity Standard, banning offshore drilling, making major investments in high speed rail and providing federal grant money to innovative transit solutions.

But that doesn’t appear to be the direction Reid is steering Lieberman:

Lieberman, an independent Democrat from Connecticut, was asked to work with Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to find a compromise.

As David Dayen has repeatedly explained, Bingaman’s ACELA package that passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year is quite possibly worse than the status quo. It is the weakest form of energy-only legislation currently on the table, and it more closely reflects something you’d expect Republicans to put forward than what you’d hope to see from Democrats.

And Max Baucus, as evidenced by his role in the health care debate, is just about the last person you’d want to get input from on something this important. He seems more interested in slow-walking legislation for the sake of the appearance of bipartisanship than actually addressing problems. On top of that, Baucus has never shown an actual interest in or understanding of taking serious action on climate change or energy.

Meanwhile, there are several Senators who actually understand the scope of the problem and have worked for years to address it:

Senator Boxer was squeezed out of negotiations last fall after Republicans in her committee orchestrated a massive temper tantrum and failed to show up for a vote.

Senator Sanders has several good amendments that represent an excellent starting point for discussions.

And Senator Merkley is outlining a proposal today to significantly reduce demand for oil.

It isn’t clear why these three Senators — folks who actually have good ideas on the issue — aren’t being asked to help plot out the path forward.

Putting Joe Lieberman in charge of plotting the path forward, and instructing him to do so with the input of Senators Bingaman and Baucus, is a surefire recipe for screwing up a rare opportunity to move decent legislation. When Lieberman botches this, Senator Reid will share the blame.

No Shortage of Blame to Go Around for the Demise of Climate Legislation

6:50 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I’ve been on the offensive against Senator Graham for the past two days, expressing frustration with his mind-boggling hypocrisy and wholly apparent lack of integrity. I believe his participation in the crafting of climate change legislation was completely disingenuous, and I don’t think he ever actually intended to see it through to completion. His rhetoric throughout the process has been anything but helpful, and it was becoming apparent by mid-March that he was looking for an excuse to bail on the effort, blaming superficial process concerns for his lack of resolve. And as it turned out, that is exactly what happened yesterday. If Democrats have an ounce of sense they’ll never again take anything Senator Graham says at face value.

Now, that doesn’t at all mean that Harry Reid doesn’t share the blame for the Senate’s failure to address the issue this year. Those who blame Senator Reid for his decision to prioritize immigration reform over the climate bill make a number of good points. Senator Reid’s decision does in fact appear to be, as Senator Graham put it, a cynical political ploy designed to shore up his chances to maintain his seat this November. So yes, I think Senator Reid’s decision, which may have been implicitly backed by the Obama administration, was a plainly political move that played no small part in how all of this unfolded.

But that does not at all mean that Senator Graham has no agency in this. David Roberts writes:

It looks like an ass-covering decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is about to scuttle efforts to bring a climate/energy bill to the floor this year.

How exactly is Senator Reid responsible for Senator Graham’s decision to reverse course? That decision was Senator Graham’s alone, regardless of how he frames it or who he tries to pin the blame on. Even after rumors began circulating that immigration was being prioritized over climate, Senator Kerry indicated that he still intended to move forward with his bill. And indeed, if Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman had introduced their bill on Monday and managed to cobble together 60 votes, Harry Reid would have brought it to the floor for a vote. I’m quite certain of that. Yes, Senator Reid hurt the cause by making a foolish and politically selfish decision. But Senator Graham was the one who put the nail in the coffin, and he probably would have come up with some other excuse to do so if this hadn’t come along.

Moving on, I’m baffled by Jon Chait’s truly strange argument that Graham is actually in the right here. He writes:

As for bad faith, Graham is a Republican Senator from South Carolina. His highest risk of losing his seat, by far, comes from the prospect of a conservative primary challenger. Indeed, I’d say that prospect is far from remote, and Graham is displaying an unusual willingness to risk his political future. He has little incentive to negotiate on these issues except that he believes it’s the right thing to do. So when Democrats put climate change on the backburner to take up immigration, and do so for obviously political reasons, Graham has every right to be angry. He’s risking his political life to address a vital issue, and Harry Reid is looking to save his seat.

Both of the bolded sections above seem to ignore who Senator Graham is and what he is about. On the claim that Graham’s motivation for working on this bill was entirely pure, I’d love to see some substantiation. Graham may have been working on the bill in order to weaken it at every step in the process, in a role similar to the one Chuck Grassley played as the health care bill moved through the Senate Finance Committee. And indeed, that is what he has been doing throughout the process, all the while taking every opportunity to stick his thumb in the eye of environmentalists, as insult to injury. Republicans frequently pretend to be interested in working on an issue in a bipartisan manner when they are actually just trying to weaken or derail it. This is not a new tactic, and Democrats are going to have to stop falling for it eventually. Or perhaps Senator Graham was trying to bolster his image as somewhat of a maverick who would love to pass bipartisan bills if it weren’t for those hyper-partisan Democrats. As David Dayen notes, this is classic Lindsey Graham:

I think Graham was dying for a reason to kill these bills where he was the “sensible Republican moderate” on them. This has been his pose for some time, to show to Washington that he’s willing to work across the aisle, but to never actually do it.

Based on how this has played out, either of those two scenarios seems far more likely to have been Graham’s motivation than that he simply ‘believes its the right thing to do.’

On Chait’s other point, that Graham ‘has every right to be angry,’ I agree, but with a caveat. Graham would have found an excuse to throw a fit and bail on the effort regardless. Whether it was the use of reconciliation on unrelated legislation, the Constitutionality of healthcare reform, or some other perceived slight, it was becoming pretty clear that Graham was searching for an excuse to take his ball and go home. Graham was going to throw a tantrum no matter what. Harry Reid just made it easier for him by making a selfish blunder at the worst possible moment.

Is Senator Kerry’s Staff Misleading Constituents About the Climate Bill?

6:30 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

In addition to brewing fights over offshore drilling revenues and a host of other issues, the conflict over whether or not federal climate legislation should pre-empt the Clean Air Act continues to heat up. As it stands, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. A variety of Senators, ranging from Rockefeller on the Democratic side, to Murkowski (R – Big Oil) on the Republican side, initiated unsuccessful efforts earlier this year to take this authority away.

As part of the grand compromise being crafted by Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman, rumors have been circulating that this authority will be taken away, effectively weakening the strongest environmental law on the books. As recently as earlier this week Senator Graham indicated that the bill would include such a provision.

Several Senators, including 10 industrial-state Democrats as well as Voinovich (R-OH) have indicated that taking this step to weaken the Clean Air Act is necessary for them to support the bill. These Senators are at odds with most environmentalists, who maintain that EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, while not a perfect tool, should be maintained as a backstop regardless. Both the Sierra Club and 1Sky have made it clear that they will oppose any climate legislation that prevents the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the context for the latest grassroots action campaign initiated by CREDO. Seeking clarity on how Senator Kerry plans to deal with this disagreement, CREDO has generated over 700 phone calls to the Senator, asking where he stands. Here is the relevant part of the script callers are using:

The Clean Air Act should not be compromised, rolled back or used as a bargaining chip as part of any deal to bring energy or climate change legislation to the floor of the Senate. Sen. Kerry has long been an environmental champion but he is putting his legacy at risk.

Will Senator Kerry protect the Clean Air Act authority and fight any effort to roll back the Clean Air Act in congress?

CREDO then asked activists who called to let them know how Senator Kerry’s staff responded. CREDO has provided EnviroKnow with a sampling of how activists reported staff responses to this question. Their responses largely indicated that Senator Kerry will not be compromising the Clean Air Act in order to reach a deal on climate legislation. Here are some highlights:

Staffer says there is "no truth to the rumor" that Kerry is poised to compromise.Asked if Senator Kerry supported the clean air act. Person replied, "He’s doing just that" and hung up.

Claims Sen Kerry is trying to strengthen, not weaken, the Clean Air Act.

His aide said "Sen. Kerry wouldn’t do that!" When I said I didn’t want him to use the CAA as a bargaining chip…

I just spoke to one of Senator Kerry’s aides who flatly denied that Sen. Kerry is trying to compromise the Clean Air Act, indeed, he say the senator is trying to strengthen it.

Man who answered says we’re jumping the gun. Says bill has not been released yet and won’t be until Monday. Says Kerry would never do anything to weaken the Clean Air Act.

Person answering phone claims he will not compromise Clean Air Act.

Staffer said Kerry is a big supporter of the environment and he will absolutely not allow the Clean Air Act to be weakened!

Strong statement Kerry will not under any circumstances consider any suggestion to weaken the Clean Air Act or to limit the EPA’s powers under it.

It seems pretty unequivocal: Senator Kerry is not willing to compromise the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. It should be interesting to see how other Senators react to this when the draft language is released on Monday.

Reid and Pelosi Willing to Punt on Climate and Energy Legislation?

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I’m not sure what to make of this:

Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with plans to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year — even if it means punting on energy legislation until next Congress.

According to Senate Democratic aides, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed during a Tuesday afternoon meeting that a “moral imperative” exists to move immigration reform in 2010. The decision to press ahead on such a controversial issue now — in an election year — comes even though Democrats have had little success attracting GOP support for their initiatives in the 111th Congress. Hispanic Members have been ramping up the pressure on President Barack Obama to force the issue with Congress.

During the meeting, Reid “reiterated his intention to move forward” this year on immigration reform, one aide said, adding that Pelosi agreed it is a top priority, even beyond energy legislation.

“The Speaker did agree that if faced with a choice between energy and immigration, she’d go with immigration,” the aide said.

A few things don’t really make sense here:

  1. Senator Reid has been saying about once a month (2/24, 3/22, 4/12) that he plans to move energy/climate legislation this year.
  2. Five days ago President Obama called climate legislation a foundational priority that has to be done soon.
  3. The bit about Pelosi saying immigration reform is a higher priority than energy is obviously not true: The House already passed climate/energy legislation last June.

Is this another example of politicians promising something they have no intention of delivering or a trial balloon waiting to be popped?

Update — Senator Graham is already pushing back on this:

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican point man on both immigration and climate control, told reporters that the Senate was not prepared to debate immigration reform this year."I think we ought to take it up next year with the new Congress," Graham said.

Asked why Reid is now pushing it, Graham said, "I think it’s because he is in an election and he has a big Hispanic vote, and they (Democrats) made promises" to revamp immigration laws this year.

It is unclear what would happen to the climate-change legislation if Reid turns to immigration reform, Graham said.

Update 2 — Pelosi aides have begun walking this back:

“The conversation was really about timing, not an either-or kind of thing, but timing,” said the aide, who described the talks as a routine meeting of bicameral leaders.“It is all about what the Senate can move first and pass,” the aide said Wednesday. “Obviously on both of these items – immigration and comprehensive energy and climate legislation — we are waiting on the Senate to act.”

Update 3 — The WSJ pushes the electoral politics angle:

Democrats eyeing the Hispanic voting bloc include Mr. Reid, who faces a tough re-election race in his home state of Nevada, where 15% of voters in 2008 were Hispanic. Democrats running in other states with large Hispanic populations include Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Major Conflict Brewing Over Offshore Drilling Revenues in Climate Bill

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

You know things are about to get ugly when three Democratic Senators who strongly oppose something are met with this response from their colleague:

“If there’s no drilling, the interior states get no money,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “And there is not going to be any drilling unless there is revenue sharing.”“They [interior states] can have 100 percent of zero, or they can have 65 to 75 percent of something huge. Now let them go figure it out,” she added.

Dorgan, Bingaman and Rockefeller must have known revenue sharing was part of the offshore drilling package being worked out. The question then, is, what is their end game?

Is this an intentional attempt to delay and/or block the process?

Or do they think Senator Landrieu and others who support revenue sharing with the states will give in (hint: they won’t)?

Or are they just making bad noises here so they can get something else added to the bill in return for their dissatisfaction?

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