The House Energy and Commerce Committee begins debate this afternoon on a major global warming and energy bill amid protests from Republicans, the petroleum industry and far-left environmental groups.
Republican lawmakers on Friday requested one more hearing on the 932-page measure, complaining that Chairman Henry Waxman's "self-imposed Memorial Day deadline for reporting this bill necessarily requires that we short-circuit the logical legislative process that our democracy thrives on, and replace it with a frantic rush to judgment."
Also today, American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard found fault with the emission allocation system negotiated by Waxman (D-Calif.), Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and committee Democrats. In sum, Gerard said the legislation shortchanges his industry.
"Clearly, the Waxman-Markey bill is not equitable as it relates to allowances," he said. "What we believe is very important is that it be equitable across all carbon sources. There needs to be some balance there ... so that you don't shift the cost to one particular source or one particular sector."
Waxman's bill would allocate 2 percent of the allowances to the oil and gas industry, which represents about 30 percent of the nation's emissions. So by Gerard's rationale, the sector should get about a third of the allowances. The electric utility industry is slated to receive about 35 percent of the cap-and-trade program's allowances, which is almost in line with its roughly 40 percent contribution to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
From the left, a coalition of 130 local environmental groups formed TheClean.org to complain about what it says are lax greenhouse gas emission limits and too many free allowances offered to the electric utility and oil industries. Members include the Civil Society Institute, the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Alabama Environmental Council, the Rainforest Action Network, Appalachian Voices, and the SEED Coalition.
Seven environmental activists are also into their fifth week of a hunger strike, protesting for a stronger climate bill.
But Waxman appears unfazed by the complaints.
In a memo to the 59-member committee yesterday, Waxman offered no indication that he would heed Republican requests for an additional hearing. In fact, he outlined an even more ambitious schedule for marking up the bill, with late nights tomorrow and Wednesday and a vote on final passage targeted for Thursday.
Waxman also said he would offer a manager's amendment at the start of the markup that is "similar in length and structure" to the four-title bill released Friday.
Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are considering offering as many as 450 amendments to the legislation during this week's markup, including changes that would seek less aggressive emission limits and exclusions for individual states.
Several committee Democrats say they will oppose the GOP amendments, even ones tempting to their home-state constituents. "That will not lure me into their obstructionism," Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said Saturday. "That won't impress me one bit."
Republican complaints are also coming from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the ranking member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, who released a report today questioning U.S. EPA's analysis of the first draft of the House climate bill. The EPA study used incorrect figures on offsets and assumed a significantly lower gross domestic product growth rate, the Republican congressman said.
"If the EPA didn't have time to do a thorough analysis, it should have declined to produce a report," said Sensenbrenner, who does not serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee. "Instead, what we have is a document that ignores major cost-influencing factors. That's not the transparency the people deserve."
Waxman is not counting on any new EPA or Energy Department studies of the legislation before the markup. "Their turnaround time is measured in weeks, not hours," a House Democratic aide said last week.
The House climate bill has picked up support from a cross section of national environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The liberal Center for American Progress today published a list of 10 reasons to support the legislation, arguing that it would cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to equal half a billion cars.
"The global warming threat is growing, and we have no more time to lose," CAP's Daniel Weiss and Daniel Wagener wrote.
Some major electric utility companies -- including Exelon, Constellation Energy and FPL Group -- are speaking favorably about the legislation.
"Although more work needs to be done, we are encouraged by all of the recent progress that has been made on the bill, and as such, we support moving it through the committee process and onto the House floor," FPL Group CEO Lew Hay said today in a prepared statement. "It is vital that legislation pass this year."
Click here for Chairman Waxman's memo outlining the markup process.
Click here for the Republicans' letter requesting another hearing.
Click here for Rep. Sensenbrenner's report on the EPA analysis.
Senior reporter Michael Burnham contributed.