Boxer-Kerry Climate Bill Expected Next Wednesday

| Thu Sep. 24, 2009 7:10 PM EDT

After weeks of waiting, it now looks like the Senate will see a climate bill next week after all. At an event in Pittsburgh ahead of the G20 summit, bill cosponsor John Kerry (D-Mass.) announced that the bill will be released next Wednesday.

Kerry said the bill, which he is cosponsoring with Energy and Public Works chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), will have a strong and broad coalition backing it at release. He also said it will be a "thoughtful, innovative, far-reaching solution" and "will take a more comprehensive approach to dwindling oil reserves than any prior legislation."

It's expected that the bill Kerry and Boxer release will still include some placeholders as senators continue to work out the details on issues like permit allocation. Boxer has promised to hold hearings on her draft, which sources close to the debate say will start the week of Oct. 5. Markup is expected to begin in mid-October.

One notable development, reported by Greenwire, is that Boxer's draft will likely include an emissions reduction target of 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The House bill had a 17 percent target, and Boxer's environmental allies have been pushing her to improve it. One argument she is expected to make supporting the increase is a recent study from the Energy Information Administration that found that the US is on track to come in at 8.5 percent below 2005 levels of carbon dioxide by the end of this year. Most of the decrease is due to the recession and some utilities switching to natural gas, but it is exactly halfway to the emissions cuts outlined for 2020 in the House bill–meaning a larger cut won't be quite as challenging as once thought.

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