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Climate Legislation: Countdown to the House Showdown


by Bill Chameides | June 26th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 3 comments

Update, 6/27/2009: At 7:16 p.m. on June 26, 2009 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, 219-212. The ball now moves to the Senate’s side of the net.


Two recent polls (Washington Post-ABC News and Mellman Group/Public Opinion Strategies [sub req’d]) show that a large majority of Americans want the United States to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. On Friday the House delivered.

No one would say it’s been a cakewalk getting the Waxman-Markey climate bill [pdf] (H.R. 2454) to this point. The far-from-trim, 946-page bill that passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in mid-May has swelled to 1,201 pages as it made its way of several other committees, each intent on shaping the legislation to its liking. (Peruse the entire bill [pdf].)

The most vehement of the bill’s hostage-takers was Representative Collin “I don’t trust anyone anymore” Peterson (D-MN), the chair of the House agriculture committee who held out for — and in the end got — the gravy he wanted, including:

  • the agriculture department replacing the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead body in charge of managing the offset program,
  • grandfathering more than a billion gallons of biodiesel regardless of the fuel’s climate impact (see earlier post), and
  • a five-year ban on the inclusion of indirect greenhouse gas land-use emissions from biofuels as part of the renewable fuel mandate law. (In the interim, the issue of indirect land-use change emissions will be studied for five years, at the end of which the Department of Agriculture, EPA, and the Department of Energy will have to agree on an approach before moving forward. Once, and if, agreement is reached, Congress would still take another year to review before the new recommendations would go into effect.)

With these goodies in hand, late Tuesday, Rep. Peterson pledged his support along with that of possibly 25 fellow farm state lawmakers.

Getting a bill through Congress is always a labor of compromise and accommodation, and that is certainly the case with Waxman-Markey. How damaging were the Peterson compromises to the overall intentions of a climate bill? Check back next week for my post on “Counting All the Carbon.”

By no means was Peterson alone in his tinkering efforts. Here’s a comprehensive list of amendments to the bill.

Will the Compromises Deliver the Votes?

The latest tally by Energy and Environment News Daily indicates the bill is about 35 votes shy of the 218 votes needed to pass. If the vote goes forward, it is on the hopes that enough of the 80-odd fence-sitters will jump off the fence onto the ‘yea’ side. If they don’t, I have to ask why.

Voters Agree: The Time for Climate Legislation Is Now

Separate polls recently conducted by the Mellman Group/Public Opinion Strategies and Washington Post-ABC News show that voters overwhelmingly:

  • want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (75 percent or more),
  • support the core principles in comprehensive climate legislation (72 percent)
  • favor moving forward to address climate even if other countries do less (60 percent) — and even if it raises the cost of goods (62 percent).

And here’s the biggie: more than half the people polled support Waxman-Markey (52 percent).

In the Washington Post/ABC News poll, when faced with higher electricity bills, 56 percent of those surveyed said they would still support a cap and trade with a $10 monthly increase; that number dropped to 44 percent when hypothetical monthly utility prices rose to $25.

According to the latest EPA projections, the average American household will incur an increase of less than $10 per month whereas the CBO analysis puts the estimated costs at just under $15 a month.

Congress, the ball is in your court.


A Note About the Polls - The Mellman Group/Public Opinion Strategies poll was a nationwide survey conducted on June 3-4 of 1,000 likely voters. The Washington Post/ABC News poll, conducted June 18-21, involved 1,001 adult Americans. Both surveys had a margin of error of 3 percent.

A Note About the Update - This post was updated on June 27 to reflect the climate bill’s passage in the House.

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3 Comments

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  1. JP Dolphin
    Aug 4, 2009

    Below I have attached a summary of amendment 9 to the Waxman-Markey bill by Congressmen Blackburn of Tennessee: “Would exclude from the definition of air pollutant: carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride. It also would provide that nothing in the Clean Air Act authorizes or requires regulation of climate change or global warming.” Im slightly confused as to why is part of the rhetoric, it seems to undermine the entire bill. Any explanation would be appreciated

  2. Dan K.
    Jun 26, 2009

    Politics 101 – all politics is local. National numbers don’t mean much to Congress people from districts where the local numbers are not in line. It’s like how some of our military planes are assembled in 46 different districts so it’s harder to kill such projects when local jobs are at stake.

  3. Peter G
    Jun 26, 2009

    According to the old saying, politics makes for strange bedfellows. As a scientist, I find myself aghast at the sleeping partners embedded in this bill. Exempting biofuels from indirect GHG-emissions? Might as well kiss vast tracts of the rain forests of Brazil and Indonesia goodbye.

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