Prospects For Waxman-Markey In House Committees

Posted by Gristmill Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:21:00 GMT

By Grist's Kate Sheppard.

The Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill cleared a major hurdle on May 21 when it was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee. But the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009 still has a long road to travel before it can be voted on by the full House.

The House parliamentarian has referred the bill to nine committees, though only four have signaled that they intend to review it in the next weeks. Some estimates of how many committees may want a chance to modify the legislation go as high as 11, and it’s certain that the Ways and Means, Agriculture, Science, and Natural Resources committees will all play some role in the development of the bill.

All of this will take place before the bill goes up for a vote in the full House, which could come by the end of June. Here’s a rundown of the committees likely to take a stab at the bill (or a hatchet, perhaps), and any indication we have so far of these panels’ intentions:

Ways and Means: This committee is responsible for taxes and any other revenue that comes into federal coffers. Under the proposed cap-and-trade plan, the government will auction emissions credits to industries and other buyers, generating significant revenue for Uncle Sam.

There are plenty of alternative plans floating around Ways and Means that may influence how the committee members approach Waxman-Markey. John Larson (D-Conn.) has offered a carbon-tax bill, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has proposed a cap-and-dividend bill, and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) coauthored climate legislation with Van Hollen last year and has been active in discussions of climate policy.

Meanwhile, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has said he wants to work on health care before taking up the climate bill.

Agriculture: Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has threatened to derail Waxman-Markey unless the EPA backs off from proposed rules on the greenhouse-gas footprint of ethanol production. He’s demanded veto power over the related provisions of the bill, and says if he doesn’t get it, his committee’s 26 Democrats will vote against the bill on the floor. He also wants a chance to review provisions he has deemed to be inadequate, like fuel standards, the definition of renewable energy sources, and regulations governing trading in the carbon market. He has also said he wants to see more domestic offsets made available for farmers and thinks the Department of Agriculture should play a larger role in implementation of the legislation.

Science and Technology: This committee may decide to review provisions in the bill related to adaptation and climate science monitoring. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is holding markup of the committee’s own bill to create a National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in early June, which the committee could choose to add to the Waxman-Markey bill. This committee has also been active on some of the policy issues surrounding the development of carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology in the past, and advocated for increased government funding of energy technology development.

Natural Resources: This committee oversees public lands, wildlife, water resources, mining laws, and the development of natural resources, including oil and natural gas. Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has said he intends to get more programs to expand the development of oil and gas in the outer continental shelf and on federal lands. More domestic development, he said, “should be part of a responsible, comprehensive, pro-energy bill.”

Rahall’s committee has been holding hearings on this subject this year, revisiting what became a highly contentious issue in 2008 as Congress allowed the ban on offshore drilling to expire. Adding expanded domestic drilling to this bill would displease many Democrats, including sponsors Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), but there has been talk that the Obama administration has been discussing this as one option to sweeten a climate deal for moderates on both sides of the aisle in order to get the bill through Congress.

Education & Labor: This committee could decide to examine and amend some of the green jobs provisions of the bill, as well as the provisions that provide grants to educational institutions for green jobs training. For now, though, it looks like the panel will take a pass on reviewing the bill.

Foreign Affairs: This panel may want to take up some of the provisions in the bill to fund international adaptation and technology development. Currently, the bill would allocate a tiny sum of revenue generated from selling emissions credits to adaptation programs—just 2 percent of the total revenue generated in the initial years of the cap-and-trade system. But what the United States is willing to offer to other countries is probably going to be key in bringing major developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia on board at the international climate talks late this year in Copenhagen.

Financial Services: This committee could take up several portions of the bill, including the elements that deal with grants and loans for green buildings and energy-efficiency projects. Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has said he would probably want to take a look at the provisions on regulating the new carbon market that the bill would create.

Transportation and Infrastructure: This panel could claim jurisdiction on anything in the bill dealing with transportation, and there’s quite a bit that fits the bill. But the committee is already at work on a major surface transportation bill that will likely occupy much of its time this summer.