Lawmakers at the heart of Senate energy and climate negotiations revealed key details today of their legislative proposal during a closed-door meeting with major industry groups they are courting in hopes of winning over Senate moderates and avoiding an expensive advertising war.
Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) shared an eight-page outline of their draft legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next four decades, including provisions to limit business costs while ramping up domestic production of oil, gas and nuclear power.
According to several sources in the meeting room, the bill calls for greenhouse gas curbs across multiple economic sectors, with a 2020 target of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels and an 80 percent limit at midcentury. Power plant emissions would be regulated in 2012, with other major industrial sources being phased in starting in 2016.
In a bow to industry demands, the senators' proposal would pre-empt U.S. EPA climate regulations under the Clean Air Act and halt dozens of state climate laws and regulations now on the books. Also, only facilities that release 25,000 tons per year of greenhouse gases must participate in the climate program.
Additional layers of certainty for industry come via a "hard price collar" that limits greenhouse gas allowances to between $10 and $30 per ton tagged to inflation, with an increase at a to-be-determined "fixed rate" over time. The legislation would also set aside a "strategic reserve" of 4 billion greenhouse gas credits that could be released into the market to help control price volatility fluctuations.
Overall, the bill will include eight titles: Refining, America's Farmers, Consumer Refunds, Clean Energy Innovation, Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Energy Independence. And it will set up new nationwide standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as ideas on carbon market regulation crafted by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The senators collected their eight-page document from the industry officials before the meeting ended, and they declined comment on those details as they left the session. Nonetheless, several sources at the meeting confirmed the specifics shared by the senators.
"We obviously talked some substance," Kerry said. "We went through an outline of things we're thinking about."
Kerry said a full outline of the bill will be delivered Tuesday to a larger group of senators who have been working over the last year on the climate and energy issue. The senators also hope to send their proposal to EPA and the Congressional Budget Office by the end of next week for a five-tosix-week interagency analysis, although the timing on that depends in part on two legislative counsel staffers who are out on maternity leave.
"It's just the logistics of getting the language done," Kerry said. "So I'm not going to tell you exactly. But our target is somewhere toward that period of time or during the break."
The senators' meeting included about a dozen top trade associations, including representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Edison Electric Institute and American Petroleum Institute. Several of those officials left the meeting giving the three senators credit for their effort.
"Directionally speaking, the way they're trying to conform and shape this bill I'd suggest is largely in sync with what most people in American industry think is the direction you're going to have to go if you're going to have a successful program," said Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Now there's a lot of ifs, ands and buts, but if you're asking for a broad statement, that's a broad statement."
John Shaw, senior vice president of government affairs at the Portland Cement Association, called the meeting's tone "very positive."
"I think many of the industry sectors are willing to work with the senators to achieve positive public policy results," Shaw said, "but the devil is in the details, and folks are very anxious to see those details."
Reporter Evan Lehmann contributed.