CLIMATE:

Boxer, Kerry say comprehensive bill is on track for Wednesday

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) yesterday confirmed plans to introduce their sweeping proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions next week.

"It will be out next week. We will meet our target," Kerry said. "I said I would introduce it by the end of the month, and we will introduce it on the 30th, Wednesday."

Boxer added that hearings and markups in her Environment and Public Works Committee would follow "very soon" thereafter.

"The legislation is going to be very interesting to people because we did some really different things and we're excited about it," Boxer said.

As the pair prepare for the next stage of climate maneuvering, Kerry made attempts to reframe the verbiage surrounding the bill and sell its concepts more broadly, insisting it is not a "cap and trade" proposal but a "pollution reduction" bill.

"I don't know what 'cap and trade' means. I don't think the average American does," Kerry told reporters. "This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it's a pollution reduction bill."

Kerry's word choice echoes President Obama's references to "greenhouse gas pollution" and "carbon pollution" in his Tuesday address to the United Nations. Top Obama administration science officials, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, have also adopted similar vocabulary in recent months (Climatewire, Sept. 23).

Despite the change in rhetoric, it does not appear Kerry and Boxer have stepped away from the basic structure for cap and trade. He said the bill would still have emissions allowances and a marketplace.

Kerry said their proposal would differ from the House bill, H.R. 2454 somewhat, but that it would build on the "very significant" work in that measure.

The House bill, approved in late June, aims to reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

A lobbyist familiar with the Senate deliberations said that an EPW Committee markup is slated for the week of Oct. 12 or Oct. 19.

Release of the bill next week will push Senate climate maneuvering into a new phase, giving lawmakers specific proposals to highlight -- or attack -- ahead of floor debate that may occur later this year.

"I don't know that it changes opinions necessarily, but at least you can talk about specific provisions, and maybe the debate can narrow down to specific items, as opposed to just generally whether you are for or against the idea," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a conservative Democrat who has criticized cap and trade as a way to curb emissions.

The bill is also expected to include contributions from the Finance and Agriculture committees. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to mark up provisions on international trade and allocation of emissions allowances, provided the bill is "clearly moving," he said earlier this week. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a member of the Finance Committee who is working on her own contributions to the bill, said the Senate tax panel would be much more involved in making contributions and changes to the bill than the Ways and Means Committee was on the House side.

"We will certainly be very involved with allocations," Stabenow said yesterday. "You can expect Finance to hold hearings and play a specific role."

Kerry plans to contribute to the bill without a markup in his panel. And new Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) yesterday said she envisions contributing the bill without a formal markup in her panel.

"I have certainly indicated to them that I am looking forward to the role that agriculture can play," Lincoln said. "Our hope is that we will be able to offer recommendations, and we will hope that those will be some recommendations that can be incorporated into the bill.

"I don't think it will be a necessity that we have to mark anything up. I hope it won't be," she added.

Senate Democratic leadership hopes to bring the climate bill to the floor this year, but it remains unclear whether the measure will find a spot in a busy calendar.

Reporter Robin Bravender contributed.

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