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E&E News: No timetable for Commerce action, Rockefeller says
October 30, 2009

Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov  

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E&E News: No timetable for Commerce action, Rockefeller says

By: Ben Geman

October 30, 2009

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Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) may not mark up his panel's portions of the Senate climate bill this year, he said yesterday.

Although he confirmed plans to hold a markup eventually, Rockefeller's comments are another sign that with dwindling days left this year and health care legislation not yet on the floor, a major climate bill will be pushed into 2010.

"I am a conferee on health. If you can tell me how long we will be negotiating with the House, then I can give you a better answer to your question," he said when asked whether a Commerce Committee markup would occur this year. "I think it is going to be a long time."

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee plans to begin marking up the climate bill next week. But the time frames and plans of committees that oversee pieces of the measure -- notably Finance and Agriculture -- remain uncertain.

The Commerce panel has jurisdiction over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has a leading federal role in the development of climate models and forecasts to help U.S. communities and businesses adapt to climate change. For instance, S. 1733 would create a National Climate Service within NOAA.

Rockefeller also said the current bill, which has been tweaked to increase incentives for deploying carbon controls, does not have the support of lawmakers from coal producing states. West Virginia is a major coal producing state.

"They don't have a deal until they get the coal-state senators, and they are a long way from doing that," he said. His comments follow largely positive remarks about the coal provisions from Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) earlier yesterday, although Baucus has other concerns with the bill (Greenwire, Oct. 29)

Rockefeller did not say specifically what was needed to get his vote but said the bill should be crafted with wide input.

"There's an instinct just to sort of pass the bill and say well that's it," he said. "Well there are five of us committee chairmen who [Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)] has appointed to help write that bill, so the EPW chairman doesn't get to write the whole bill, right?"

Carbon capture and storage is not among the measures under Commerce's jurisdiction, he noted.

Rockefeller said his top priority is preserving the West Virginia coal economy. "I am going to represent my state," he said. "I can represent it in a way which will be expensive, but which will secure West Virginia's future on coal, forever."

One goal, he said, is $20 billion to $25 billion in funding for carbon capture and storage research and deployment. "I have got to get my hands on $25 billion. I already put $3.4 [billion] for low carbon coal, CCS, in the stimulus. Now we have got to get another $20 billion," he said.

The Senate bill and its House counterpart, H.R. 2454, already provides multiple funding streams for CCS. It would establish a 10-year, $10 billion fund for demonstration and early deployment of CCS technologies. Beyond that, the bills make billions more in lucrative bonus allowances available for early movers in deploying the technology.

Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the bonus allowances are worth at least $100 billion through 2050.

Rockefeller also said he was not comfortable with the bill's emissions targets. The Senate bill would limit U.S. emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and 80 percent below in 2050.

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