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US Senate Delays Energy Bill

23 July 2010
US Senate Delays Energy Bill
After meeting with the Democratic caucus on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate will not consider an energy and climate bill this month, and instead will focus on a bill to address the oil spill. 

While support for a comprehensive cap on US emissions failed to materialize over the past year, hope had remained that a scaled-back cap on the utility sector could still be included in the bill.  On Wednesday, a “working group” made up of utility executives and environmental leaders sent a memo to Senator Reid outlining agreement on how such a cap could be designed.  Though, ultimately, it became clear that the votes for even a scaled-back cap on emissions did not exist, and too few days remain before the August recess to secure them. 

Reid’s decision to also forgo more popular energy provisions, such as a national renewable electricity standard (RES), came as a surprise to many.  Previously, Reid indicated that energy provisions that have broad support would be included in the bill.  On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed six separate energy bills, addressing issues like nuclear energy and electric vehicles, that were expected to be considered for inclusion in the final bill. 

Evan Juska, Senior Policy Manager for The Climate Group said, “The risk going forward with a piecemeal energy bill is that some Senators will look back and say ‘We solved the problem'. By holding some of these popular provisions back, it leaves the energy question unanswered, and creates an opportunity to bring a comprehensive climate and energy package back in the future."

Some of the excluded energy provisions could be offered as an amendment to the bill this month.  It is also possible that an energy and climate bill could be brought back after the August recess in September.  But most likely, the issue will need to be addressed next year. 

Amy Davidsen, US Executive Director for The Climate Group said, “Clearly, we all need to do more to make climate change a priority. The issue will not go away.  Businesses in the US need certainty to make smart investments for the future, and right now, they still don’t have it.”

The Senate’s decision not to address climate and energy also gives new significance to efforts to delay EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, which are set to begin next year.  A measure to eliminate EPA’s authority failed last month in the Senate by a vote of 47-53.  But another measure to delay EPA’s authority over stationary sources for 2 years is expected to be considered this year. 

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