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November 09, 2009
Senate Committee Approves Kerry-Boxer Climate Bill
    by Robert Kropp

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act continues to face obstacles as it is considered this week by Senate committees on Finance, and Energy and Natural Resources.

Despite last week's approval by the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S.1733) faces an uncertain future. It seems increasingly unlikely that the US, by far the world's heaviest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG), will have passed a climate change bill into law in time for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which begins in Copenhagen on December 7.

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act was approved by the EPW Committee by a vote of 11-1, after all seven of the Republicans on the Committee boycotted the hearing. The Republicans had demanded a second Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis of the costs associated with the bill. However, Senate Barbara Boxer of California, the Chairman of the Committee, said in a statement following passage, "The Republicans' demand for another EPA analysis now would be duplicative and a waste of taxpayer dollars."

"Indeed, the EPA said their economic analysis was 'unprecedented' in scope and was never done for any other energy or climate bill at this stage of the process," Boxer's statement continued.

Several investor groups voiced strong support for passage of the bill out of the EPW Committee. Mark Heesen, President of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), wrote in a letter to Senator Boxer, "If the venture industry is to continue to invest confidently and consistently in clean technologies, strong signals of support from the government are necessary."

Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, wrote on behalf of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), "By passing this bill out of Committee, and ultimately having the US adopt and enact such critical legislation, companies across the country will respond with substantial investments in new renewable energy and efficiency projects and technologies that will create jobs, and help drive the economic recovery."

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act will be taken up this week by the Senate's Finance, and Energy and Natural Resources, committees. Senator Max Baucus of Montana, who is Chairman of the Finance Committee, recorded the only opposing vote in the EPW Committee's passage of the bill. Baucus has stated that he wants a climate bill passed by the Senate, but one which has less aggressive emissions targets for 2020.

While the Waxman-Markey climate bill, passed by the House of Representatives in June, called for emissions reductions of 17% by 2020, the Kerry-Boxer bill seeks to mandate reductions of 20% by then.

The challenge to eventual passage by the Senate of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act can be discerned by a projection published by Environment and Energy Daily. E&E Daily's analysis of the positions of Senators finds that 31 are committed to voting yes, and another 10 are leaning toward approval. Twenty-seven Senators are identified as "fence-sitters," while 32 are likely to vote no. The bill will require 60 votes in favor to end debate and move to final passage.


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