|Democrats Cling to Possibility of RES Bill This Session, Prepare for Next Year|
|Nov 18, 2010||New York Times|
|KATHERINE LING of Greenwire |
Key Senate Democrats continue to hope they can pass a renewable electricity standard and other smaller energy bills this year despite the dwindling time and interest in the lame-duck session.
Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and other lawmakers have been talking with one another and leadership this week on how to move several pieces of energy legislation in the remaining time and with a schedule crowded with expiring income tax cuts, appropriations and a Russian nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) inflicted a severe blow for action on an RES or other energy issues when he decided this week not to proceed on a procedural vote for a natural gas and electric vehicle incentives measure yesterday, the only obviously germane bill on energy issues scheduled for floor time in the lame-duck session (E&E Daily, Nov. 17).
But Dorgan said yesterday that Reid's decision was not "the last chance" for energy this year.
"I remain very hopeful that we can have a chance to get the natural gas piece, the electric vehicle ... as well as the RES," Dorgan said. "I just had some discussions on the floor. ... We're still working" on the RES, he said.
Bingaman, the main author of the RES bill said that while he did not have the 60 co-sponsors needed to end debate and pass the measure yet, it was still a top priority for him. "We're still waiting to see what the majority leader decides," he said yesterday.
Reid withdrew the natural gas and electric vehicle bill to increase chances of passing it later in the session, according to a Reid aide. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a former co-sponsor of the bill, echoed those sentiments yesterday.
Hatch told reporters he wants the bill to be considered in the lame-duck session and that he might be open to attaching a set of expired energy tax incentives to the measure. Hatch withdrew his sponsorship of the bill because it increased the fee for the oil spill liability trust fund as an offset.
"Tax extenders -- we need to do that ... it's possible," Hatch said. "But I don't want anything to get in the way of the natural gas bill."
Hatch said the bill was critical to begin addressing the nation's dependence on foreign oil. He said he did not have an alternative suggestion to offset the approximately $5 billion bill yet.
Foundations for next year
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said while he did not think an RES bill or any other energy issues "will come up" in the Senate in the lame duck, he and several other senators, including John Kerry (D-Mass.), were taking the time now to plan new legislation to address these issues in the next session.
"We hope maybe we can build a broader base of support for American energy independence legislation, which also effectively is climate change," he said.
Lieberman, Kerry, and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)and Tom Carper (D-Del.) -- "who would be a good bridge builder for us" -- met earlier this week to plot a new course to address energy and climate issues from scratch, Lieberman said.
"Cap and trade is off the table. ... I think we are starting anew," Lieberman said. "We have to start on the presumption that the table is clean, that nothing is on it."
"My own feeling is some of us who met [Tuesday] should sit down with a group of Republicans who are at all interested in energy independence legislation and start saying, 'OK last year we battled each other. Now what can we agree on to make some progress here?'" he said.
Lieberman suggested Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is still interested in working on a bill, despite walking away from negotiations on climate change legislation earlier this year. Other GOP senators who might want to work on a bill could be Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bob Corker of Tennessee or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, assuming she wins her re-election, he said.
Lieberman said he has also had a brief floor discussion with Alexander about working on an air pollution bill next year to address the regulation of four main pollutants: NOx, SO2, mercury and CO2.
Reporter Katie Howell contributed.
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