CLIMATE:

EIA to assess Senate bill's impacts on energy supply, demand

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) submitted key details of their climate bill yesterday to the Energy Information Administration as part of preparations for a floor debate later this spring or summer.

EIA will take a minimum of six to eight weeks to run the numbers on what the senators' legislation means through 2035 for energy supply, demand, prices and greenhouse gas emissions.

But Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman for the Energy Department's main analytical unit, said the schedule won't be fixed in stone. "This depends on also how many things get changed and we have to redo things, and so forth," he said of the six- to eight-week "ballpark" estimate.

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman also sent details of their bill yesterday to U.S. EPA for a study of the bill's economic and environmental effects. A Congressional Budget Office study won't be started until the legislation is officially introduced, though Senate aides say they are in regular contact with the nonpartisan office.

EIA, EPA and CBO all studied the House-passed climate bill (H.R. 2454) last year. On average, EIA found that the House bill would curb household consumption by $83 a year between 2012 and 2030 under a "basic case" scenario in which low-emission technology is developed on schedule and critical offsets are not constrained. EIA's findings were along the same lines as CBO, which projected a cost of $175 per year (2010 dollars), and EPA, which expected a cost of $80 to $111 per year (2005 dollars).

The Senate proposal from Kerry, Graham and Lieberman is likely to call for similar emission restrictions -- 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 -- though with different mechanisms to control emissions from across the economy.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he plans to schedule floor debate on the energy and climate bill ahead of any action on immigration, but he has not been more specific about the timing. Given the EPA and EIA studies, several sources tracking the climate issue do not expect the legislation to reach the floor until at least early June, after lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess.

Pressing for public release

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have no plans to publicly unveil their bill after scrapping a press conference that had been scheduled for Monday. Graham has left the negotiations over Reid's decision to put immigration on the agenda this year, and he has given no indication since that he is ready to come back.

EPA officials did not respond yesterday to requests to disclose the materials they got from the senators' offices. And Cogan said he did not expect EIA would release any information about the Senate bill until its analysis is finished.

The free-market energy group American Energy Alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request yesterday to EPA seeking to gain access to the senators' legislative details. In its request, the group cited President Obama's FOIA directive that the law "be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails" and that a "presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."

"This presidential directive is especially applicable in this case," the group wrote. "There are no FOIA exemptions which would prohibit the disclosure of the legislation sent to EPA. This is public information and should be made available to the public."

The American Energy Alliance has been an outspoken opponent of the Senate climate bill, airing a series of television ads last fall questioning Graham's decision to participate in the negotiations with Kerry and Lieberman (E&ENews PM, Oct. 21, 2009).

E&E also filed a FOIA request yesterday to EPA seeking details of the climate bill shared by the senators' offices.

Click here to read the American Energy Alliance's FOIA request.

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