I’m Not Dead Yet: Still Hope For a Climate Change Bill?

After a number of stories indicating that the prospects for climate change legislation were dimming for 2009, the convergence of a number of factors suggests that legislation may still be possible.

Yesterday, Senator Boxer and Senator Kerry released a draft of climate change legislation. This doesn’t mean that Senate passage is imminent. The bill has not been formally introduced and, like the early drafts of the Waxman-Markey bill, leaves some sections blank. Senator Boxer apparently intends to issue a mark-up of the bill sometime in October. One note for the politically-minded readers of this blog – just don’t call the bill “cap-and-trade” legislation. Senator Kerry stated that he does not know what “cap-and-trade” means and denied that this is “cap-and-trade” legislation – notwithstanding that it would cap emissions of CO2 and allow regulated entities the right to trade allowances to emit CO2.

Meanwhile, EPA continues to work on climate change regulations. Last week, OMB apparently completed its review of EPA’s proposal to apply PSD rules to sources of CO2 greater than 25,000 tons per year. EPA apparently intends to issue the rules some time this week. 

Opposition to climate change legislation among the regulated community appears to be splintering. In the past week, three members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce left the Chamber due to its intransigence on climate change. Perhaps even more tellingly, the Chamber yesterday issued a statement that it supports “strong federal” climate change legislation – though it still appears to oppose significant parts of the Waxman-Markey bill. The Chamber also stated that it prefers legislation to regulation by EPA. Finally, it is worth noting that the Chamber’s statement accused environmentalists of distorting its position, without addressing the withdrawal of three utility members.

The decision in Connecticut v. EPA allowing the public nuisance litigation against six generators to continue. If the threat of EPA regulation hasn’t been enough to tip the balance in favor of legislation, the threat of regulation by injunction may be enough to do so.

Whether these developments will be enough to push climate change legislation over the threshold remains to be seen. Certainly, they improve its prospects.

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