Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that the Senate will not pursue comprehensive climate legislation this fall. Instead, the Senate may take up a narrower bill (S. 3663) that would address offshore drilling regulations, remove the limits on liability for damages from oil spills, invest in oil spill response research and development, promote the use of plug-in vehicles, and create a residential energy efficiency program. The bill would not include a national renewable energy standard for utilities, as some Senators had hoped.
Reid hopes the new strategy of pursuing a less controversial energy bill in September will win 60 votes with little debate or use of floor time. “To be clear, we are not putting forth this bill in place of a comprehensive [climate] bill. But we will not pass up the opportunity to hold BP accountable, lessen our dependence on oil, create good-paying American jobs and protect the environment,” said Reid.
Reid’s decision to defer action on cap-and-trade may have been motivated by the slim prospects for Senate passage in the dwindling number of days left on the legislative calendar. Despite the top Democrat’s plans, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), sponsor of the Clean Jobs and American Power Act, still plans to pursue a carbon-pricing bill this year. Although the final form of the legislation is still being worked out, Kerry envisions a scaled-back version of his original bill (S. 1733), which would have capped greenhouse gases for sectors across the economy. Some political insiders are saying that the best chances for the Senate to pass such a bill may be during a lame duck session after the November elections.
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