On the Climate Bill Fence: What Senator Specter Is Thinking

by Bill Chameides | July 10th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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Sen. Specter (D-PA) is sitting on the climate bill fence. His issue is, predictably, coal.

The first in a series on what senators on the fence are thinking.

In June the House did its thing, passing a bill that would limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to start addressing global warming. Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Who’s thinking what? Our new series takes a peek.

With Al Franken’s swearing in this week, for the first time in 30 years Democrats have a supermajority in the Senate. But don’t be fooled. Not all Dems think or vote alike. Take climate legislation. There are some yeas, some nays, and some undecideds. Same is true for the Republicans.

Our new series looks at how fence-sitters on both sides of the aisle appear to be leaning. 

Senators Sitting on the Climate Bill Fence Series
Senators Sitting on the Climate Bill Fence Series
Lamar Alexander (R-TN) »
Evan Bayh (D-IN) »
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) »
Robert Casey (D-PA) »
Kent Conrad (D-ND) »
Byron Dorgan (D-ND) »
Russ Feingold (D-WI) »
Al Franken (D-MN) »
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) »
Tim Johnson (D-SD) »
Carl Levin (D-MI) »
Dick Lugar (R-IN) »
John McCain (R-AZ) »
Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) »

Fence-Sitter Arlen Specter

First up on the fence: Senator Arlen Specter, the newly minted Democrat from Pennsylvania, a big coal-producing state and the Northeast’s leading petroleum refiner. When we contacted his office, a staff member pointed us to Sen. Specter’s comments from Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on July 7. Take a look.

“There is no doubt of the great importance of this issue in many directions: cleaning up the environment, stopping the spread of carbon, reducing our dependence on OPEC oil which has tremendous ramifications politically with Iran being strengthened by its oil revenues and Venezuela being strengthened.  …

“As a senator from a coal-producing state, [the future of coal] is a factor which I have to take into account along with the concerns I have for my four granddaughters and their grandchildren and cleaning up the atmosphere.”

So, Sen. Specter’s issue is, predictably, coal. The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009 (ACES) bill, the House version of a national climate policy, actually had a lot for the coal industry (for some too much — see here and here).

No doubt these coal-friendly goodies were put in to garner the support of representatives like Rick Boucher (D-VA), who come from districts heavily reliant on coal. The goodies include:

  • generous allowances to coal-fired utilities to offset the cost of capping CO2 emissions,
  • $60 billion in funding to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies,
  • additional financial incentives to plants that successfully capture CO2 through CCS, and
  • Congress (instead of the Environmental Protection Agency) getting the primary authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. (Key provisions in bill [pdf].)

Could it be that still more will be needed for the coal industry to get Sen. Specter’s support for a climate bill? Or is the senator keeping his cards close to the vest to make sure that the coal industry doesn’t get less? Time will tell. 

filed under: business, climate bill fence, climate change, coal, economy, energy, faculty, global warming, policy, politics
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