Climate Bill Rebranded as BP Spill Bill?

| Thu Jun. 3, 2010 5:34 PM EDT

Looking to use the Gulf oil spill as an impetus to act on climate and energy legislation, the Senate expects next week to start work on a revamped "BP spill bill" one that includes both tougher regulation of the industry and the climate and energy provisions outlined last month by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Mike Allen teased this out in this morning's email, noting that the new plan to combine the two issues operates "on the theory the bill will be hard to oppose." A Democratic Senate aide confirmed to Mother Jones that this is the anticipated plan: combine the standing legislation with the energy bill passed last summer and a new spill-specific package.

Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to committee chairs on Thursday signaling he intends to move a package in July, and expects relevant committee work to be completed by then. "I think it is extremely important that you each examine what could be included in a comprehensive energy bill that would address the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico," Reid wrote.

"Among the actions I think we need to explore are ensuring that the oil companies are held accountable for their actions and the damages caused by their operation," he continued. Reid is meeting with the chairs next Thursday, June 10, to discuss the legislative prospects.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee, lead by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, is expected to consider some oil-spill specific legislation in the coming weeks, likely looking at how to tighten regulations. "We're trying to address all of the key concerns," said committee spokesman Bill Wicker. "This is a work in progress. It's being written carefully, and that takes time." Wicker added, however, that Bingaman "fully expects the Senate to be considering this sometime this summer."

Other senators have introduced bills that would raise the liability cap for oil spills and eliminate some tax breaks for oil, and a number of senators have proposed legislation to protect areas from new drilling. It's not clear at this point which bills might make it into a final package.

In a speech on Wednesday, Obama signaled that he would also step up the push for legislation in the coming weeks. "I will make the case for a clean energy future wherever I can and I will work with anyone to get this done, and we will get it done." He acknowledged that getting a bill passed will be a struggle. "The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months."

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