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Congressman Predicts Cap on Greenhouse Gases Will Be Law by Year's End


Asbury Park Press
May 5, 2009


U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman predicted
that a plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions will become law by the end of the year.

President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to reach agreement on a bill
during a meeting today with committee Democrats, Waxman said outside the
White House.

“The president says he wants legislation, he wants us to move as quickly
as possible,” Waxman told reporters after the meeting. “We said we’re
moving it this year and he didn’t object.”

He said panel members also agreed to push forward with legislation to give
consumers an incentive to trade in old cars for newer, more fuel-efficient
models. The “cash for clunkers” program seeks to reduce pollution from old
cars.

Democrats remain divided over cap-and-trade legislation to use pollution
permits to limit greenhouse gas emissions, particularly over how to
distribute the permits. Lawmakers from states that heavily rely on coal
and other polluting industries want free permits to aid the transition to
a cap-and-trade system.

“We are trying to be mindful of the regional concerns and the ratepayers,”
Waxman said. “We’re setting out the allocations to accomplish the goals of
protecting the ratepayers and ameliorate the harm that may come to any
region of the country.”

Some lawmakers said before the meeting that they would ask the
administration to help them sell a cap-and-trade plan to the public. The
matter is contentious because any scenario for limiting pollution likely
will raise energy costs in the short term. Republican leaders who oppose
the proposal have labeled it a “cap-and-tax” system.

Sell to the public

“We have to get out and explain and sell this to the American people,”
said Mike Doyle, a Pennsylvania Democrat who said he is concerned about
the costs to steelmakers and other energy-intensive industries. “There’s
no better person in the Democratic Party to do that than the president.”
Obama wants pollution permits to be auctioned under a program that would
cut greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 20 percent by 2020
and 83 percent by 2050.

Polluting industries, including coal-fired utilities and chemical
companies, want to have free permits while they develop technology to
limit emissions and to protect against competitors in developing countries
that don’t have such restrictions.

Waxman, Markey plan

Waxman and Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, in March
released a draft cap-and-trade system. The plan didn’t specify how
pollution allowances would be distributed, and energy committee lawmakers
so far can’t agree on that fundamental provision.

Today, about 3,000 members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association, an Arlington, Va.-based coalition with utilities in 47
states, will visit the Capitol to lobby lawmakers against an auction system.

Association Chief Executive Officer Glenn English said auctioning
pollution permits would put small local utilities at a disadvantage
against wealthier global interests such as oil companies and could enrich
market speculators at the expense of consumers.

“You can side with Wall Street and the speculators, or you can side with
Main Street and your constituents,” English told several thousand
cooperative directors at a Washington rally yesterday.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama climate- change adviser
Carol Browner have been lobbying committee members to reach a deal.

Representative G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat, said “very
strong” differences remain on auctioning pollution permits. “Hopefully the
White House can weigh in and reconcile some of our differences,” he said.

 

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