CLIMATE:

Voinovich eyes power plant-only alternative, tied to nukes and CCS

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) is working with several other lawmakers on an alternative energy and global warming proposal that includes placing limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, as well as new financial incentives for nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration.

Voinovich said that his legislative strategy centers around attaching the three separate items to a bill already approved earlier this year in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee (S. 1462). That proposal includes a nationwide renewable electricity standard and a raft of other energy incentives, including a provision that could bring oil and gas rigs closer to Florida's Gulf Coast.

"There's some practical things we can do that'd really make some difference," Voinovich said.

Voinovich is partnering with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on a new version of the electric utility-only "four pollutant" approach that was once a central point of the legislative debate over global warming during the early years of the George W. Bush administration.

"That may be the alternative," Voinovich said of a measure that limits carbon dioxide and more conventional air pollutants, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury. "The energy bill and then looking at a sector bill. To be candid with you, that's what our people are looking at too."

The power plant proposal is seen in some circles a "Plan B" in the event the economywide approach -- dealing with about 7,500 facilities, including major energy, transportation and manufacturing companies -- cannot reach 60 votes to overcome an expected GOP-filibuster. Lugar aides said their approach would need to be combined with efficiency standards for buildings and stronger corporate average fuel economy standards for transportation (Greenwire, Nov. 18).

Voinovich acknowledged that he is teaming up with Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on language that ramps up funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) at coal-fired power plants and working with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to expand the role for nuclear power.

Rockefeller and Voinovich are among 27 senators that E&E counts as "fence sitters" in the climate debate.

Both lawmakers have been vocal critics of existing global warming proposals. Rockefeller earlier this week said the 17 percent emissions target that Obama has pledged on the international stage for 2020 is too ambitious. And Voinovich led a GOP boycott of the Environment and Public Works Committee's climate bill markup in October, arguing he did not have adequate data from U.S. EPA to write amendments or vote on the legislation.

In 2008, Voinovich floated an alternative to Senate climate legislation that included tax breaks for industry to help with the purchase of low-carbon energy technologies, including nuclear power and CCS. He also agreed to a provision that would have called on Congress to enact a mandatory cap-and-trade program if the White House determined after three consecutive years that the tax breaks were not working (E&E Daily, April 28, 2008).

White House energy adviser Carol Browner and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a principle architect of the Senate's climate and energy bill, both said last month that they would prefer Congress stay focused on the economywide cap-and-trade approach used in the House-passed bill in order to keep the coalition of votes and disparate interests together.