Late-breaking suggestions for climate bill pouring in

By

 Updated:

The outline of a federal policy on climate change will begin to take shape tomorrow, as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., releases his long-awaited draft of a bill to reduce the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. And befitting an issue that has seen a 300 percent increase in lobbyists over the past five years, there have been plenty of last-minute suggestions for details to include in the legislation.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and 20 other Democrats sent a letter to Waxman and his expected climate bill co-author, Energy and Environment Subcommitee Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., urging them to include provisions on forestry in the climate bill, reports Energy and Environment Daily (subscription required).

Trees absorb carbon emissions, and deforestation is therefore considered a contributor to global warming. So Hoyer and his colleagues urged that businesses should be able to earn credits in a cap-and-trade system for investments they make to halt deforestation. So far that’s not allowed under the Kyoto protocol to address global warming because of concerns that forestry initiatives would be hard to measure, verify, or enforce. But the United Nations is considering proposals to bring forestry into the mix, and under Waxman’s bill or any other legislation, the U.S. would likely join in whatever international agreement emerges to replace the expiring Kyoto protocol, which the U.S. never joined. In the United States, the American Forest Resource Council, which represents timber products companies, has been one of the groups lobbying for policymakers to recognize that both forests and wood products can play a beneficial role on climate.

The states that have been at the forefront of putting market-based carbon emissions programs into place don’t want their efforts wiped out by federal legislation. The Environmental Council of the States, a nonprofit group of state environmental agency leaders, passed a resolution last week urging that any U.S. climate bill allow states to go above and beyond the national standard.

Last year a discussion draft of climate legislation developed by then-House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich. and Rep. Richard Boucher, D-Va., specifically said the federal law would preempt, or take the place of, any state law then in place. This is an especially key issue for the auto industry, which has been fighting California’s effort to put strict carbon emissions standards into place for vehicles. Two years ago, when Waxman introduced his own climate bill, he included language saying specifically that it would not preempt any state greenhouse gas regulations.

If the federal government puts mandates in place to reduce carbon emissions, it has to make sure to give credit to the people who have been doing it all along, argues the Renewable Energy Marketers Association. Companies that have been active in voluntary efforts to promote and fund renewable energy projects through the selling of “renewable energy credits” say their market could be devastated if not specifically recognized under a new federal emissions cap program, Carbon Control News reported Monday (subscription required).

These late-breaking submissions to the climate debate give just a hint of the complexities Waxman and his colleagues will have to tackle to meet his goal of getting a bill through his committee by Memorial Day.