Congressional Climate Change Games


A couple weeks back, the Center for Public Integrity reported on the massive lobbying effort targeting the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which literally hundreds of businesses and interest groups are vying to influence. And—surprise, surprise—some congressional have responded by quietly tweaking the bill in industry friendly ways. Today, the Washington Post singles out a handful of interesting provisions slipped into the bill by Democrats on the House energy and commerce committee. Take this sly maneuver by Rep. Gene Green, the Texas Democrat:

During the final days of the drafting of a 946-page climate bill,  Rep. Gene Green (D-Tex.) won support for an amendment that deleted a single word and inserted two others. The words could be worth millions of dollars to U.S. oil refiners.

The Green amendment deleted the word “sources” and inserted “emission points.” In the arcane world of climate legislation, that tiny bit of editing might one day give petroleum refiners valuable rights to emit carbon dioxide when it otherwise might not have been allowed. Refiners could get the extra allowances in return for cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent at a single point of a vast refinery complex instead of slashing emissions by 50 percent for the entire facility.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who was ousted from the energy committee chairmanship in favor of Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and whose wife, Debbie, is a onetime GM lobbyist, contributed an amendment as well. Predictably, it’s favorable to automakers, providing “$1.4 billion worth of extra allowances starting in 2012 when the cap-and-trade system takes effect, according to an estimate by the Union of Concerned Scientists.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat who represents coal-rich southwest Virginia, has done his part to soften the bill’s blow to coal-fired utility companies and mining interests.

He persuaded Waxman and Markey to accept a more modest reduction in emissions overall and to set aside 35 percent of allowances to help residential and industrial consumers of coal-fired power. He also won agreement for extra allowances and money—about $1 billion a year—to develop carbon capture-and-storage projects that will eventually be needed to cut carbon emissions of coal plants.

And these are just the amendments that made it into the version of the bill passed the energy committee, folks. The legislation still has a long way to go and the climate change games have only just begun.
 

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  • Dan Schulman

    Daniel Schulman is Mother Jones' deputy Washington, DC, bureau chief. Reach him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com. Dan is the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita, a biography of the Koch brothers that is now out in paperback.