Thursday, July 15, 2010

Electric firms' demand for air-pollution relief may spell doom for climate bill limited to power plants

Closed-door meetings between environmentalists and electric utility executives, which may determine the fate of climate change legislation in the Senate, have made little progress at this writing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s "top energy aide, Chris Miller, nudged the small group to the bargaining table earlier this month in the hope they could resolve more than a decade of dispute on Clean Air Act regulations and reach agreement on a first-ever cap on greenhouse gas emissions," Darren Samuelsohn and Coral Davenport report for Politico. "So far, sources close to the talks said, the two sides are holding firm in their demands."

A chief conflict is the power companies' ongoing request for "relief from the air-pollution rules as a price of entry into negotiations if they are going to accept a mandatory carbon limit that won’t apply to other industries," the reporters write. Environmental groups have held firm in their disapproval of such an agreement. "While Senate staff are not in the room, a failure to reach agreement among this critical subset of interests may drive Reid to drop greenhouse gas caps altogether from the bill headed to the floor in less than two weeks," Politico reports.

"I'm sure people throw everything on the table," League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski told Politico. "But we’ve made it damn clear ... that there are no trade-offs of any regulation of any [conventional] pollutants." Reid hopes to fold recommendations from the talks into the utility-only bill he plans to unveil in two weeks, but other sides are preparing to blame the other if the discussions go nowhere. "The utility deal will only work if EEI strips EPA of their powers to [conduct] the fierce regulation they are doing in several sectors," an environmentalist tracking the process told Politico. "This will put the votes of the liberal Democrats against the moderate Republicans. This is untenable." (Read more)

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