Climate change bill makes its move in the Senate

CLIMATE CHANGE BILL MAKES ITS MOVE IN THE SENATE…. After lengthy delays and watching the House already complete its work on the issue, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) finally unveiled legislation yesterday to address global warming. The good news, it’s a fairly ambitious bill. The bad news is, the distance between yesterday and passage is long and arduous.

Kate Sheppard noticed, among other things, the fact that “cap and trade” seems to have fallen out of favor — the label, not the policy.

[N]oticeably missing from both the bill and their rhetoric was any reference to cap and trade. Instead, they’re calling it a “Global Warming Pollution Reduction and Investment” program — and they’re promoting the energy and national security benefits rather than the emissions reductions goals. […]

The senators touted the bill’s provisions to expand the use of natural gas and nuclear power, two major changes from the Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the House in June. While the House bill would also likely spur development of those energy sources, the Senate bill includes titles specifying how they would be expanded. The senators also stressed that the bill includes a good deal of support for the development of controversial “clean” coal technology.

“It recognizes that there is no one silver bullet that is going to solve this problem,” said Kerry.

Their full bill, weighing in at 821 pages, closely mirrors the various leaked drafts that were circulating yesterday, and, in most respects, Waxman-Markey. It aims to reduce emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, and will cover approximately 7,500 major emissions sources around the country.

Bradford Plumer does a nice job highlighting some of the specific differences between the Senate bill and the Waxman-Markey bill that passed in June. There were some fears that Boxer and Kerry might scale back the scope of the plan, in order to increase its chances of overcoming obstructionist tactics, but if anything, the Senate is slightly better than the House version.

So, does the bill have a realistic shot? It won’t be easy. The first step for Boxer-Kerry will probably be the easiest: it’s going to pass the Environment and Public Works Committee, perhaps by the end of the month. From there, however, it will be subjected to scrutiny in at least four other Senate committees, each of which will change the bill, probably for the worse. Some of the entirely worthwhile measures introduced yesterday are not at all likely to withstand the process.

But at least the process is getting underway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested the bill may pass before December’s climate treaty negotiations — wishful thinking, to be sure — even as the chamber weighs health care reform.

The calendar notwithstanding, it’s a fight worth watching closely. As Brian Beutler noted this week, Boxer-Kerry, when eventually reconciled with Waxman-Markey, will “become the most significant piece of energy legislation in the nation’s history.”