The Senate Environment and Public Works chairwoman said today that she won't schedule hearings and a markup of global warming legislation until U.S. EPA completes its analysis of the measure.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) explained that because the bill she has written with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is so close to the climate measure that passed the House in June, EPA's analysis should not take long.
"We're thinking, maybe, it would take two weeks," Boxer said. "We don't know."
EPA during the spring House debate produced two sets of analyses on the climate bill drafted by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The first study came out on April 21, three weeks after Waxman and Markey released draft legislation that left blank key sections about which industries would get allocations.
Boxer and Kerry took a similar approach with their bill, leaving blank the details on allocations. EPA took six weeks before it put a price tag on the legislation once it had Waxman and Markey's allocation language.
EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said the agency is still "awaiting the complete specifications" on the bill before it begins its analysis.
"We don't have a timeline to announce yet," Alcantara added.
Boxer said she is wrapping up her work on those figures this week.
When hearings do begin, Boxer said she is planning a marathon, starting with testimony from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. After that, witnesses will appear to discuss all of the other pieces of the legislation, from greenhouse emission targets to emission allowances -- what an EPW Committee Republican aide called "the nuts-and-bolts guts of the bill."
Senate aides for both Democrats and Republicans expressed doubts today that the hearings will begin on Oct. 20 as Boxer had originally intended, meaning the markup likely won't start until November.
"Just do the math," a Democratic staffer said.
Boxer said she has promised Republicans she won't begin the hearings or markup until she has the EPA analysis.
"That's the $64,000 question," Boxer said. "We're hoping they'll be able to do it faster than they first said, because I promised the Republicans I wouldn't mark up until I have that. And I'm going to keep that promise."
Senate Democrats are trying to complete as much of the climate bill as they can before a major U.N. climate summit this December in Copenhagen. Several lawmakers are planning to go to Denmark for the negotiations, including Kerry and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), EPW's ranking member.
Boxer said she also wants to go to Copenhagen, but she would cancel the trip if the climate bill were on the Senate floor.
"I'm scheduled to go, but I never say that, because what if I have to be here?" she said. "What if climate change is on the floor that week? It could be."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he wants to have a climate debate before the end of the year, though he has also hinted that the issue could be punted until next year. At least five other committees also are planning to weigh in on the bill, including Finance, Energy and Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Commerce.
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is planning a hearing for Wednesday on the costs of climate legislation, a session that will give several moderate Democrats and Republicans, including Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), a chance to offer their perspectives on the controversial issue.