CLIMATE:

Expanded offshore drilling will be part of Senate climate bill -- Lieberman

The Senate climate bill to be unveiled tomorrow will have provisions to expand domestic oil drilling, including revenue sharing for states that agree to allow more production off their shores, according to one of the measure's lead co-sponsors.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said in an interview that the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill raises serious concerns about the safety of offshore energy production. Still, he said the climate bill that is set for rollout at a 1:30 p.m. EDT press conference tomorrow with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) reflects their long-standing plans to grow the domestic supply of oil.

"Yes, there will be a drilling provision in it," Lieberman said. "We've stuck with what we've had. We've made one slight alteration. And we expect we'll make some more alterations as this goes on based on what we've learned, particularly from [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar's 30-day review about what more could be done to protect the safety."

Lieberman did not go into specifics about what the alteration to the energy bill would be on the issue. "I've got to save some suspense for you," he said.

Environmentalists and some coastal-state Democrats have raised the red flag over more oil drilling in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill, including a threat of a filibuster from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

"Anybody who thinks that you're going to approve, as part of the deal on climate change, offshore drilling is not living on planet Earth," Nelson said today.

But Lieberman said he agrees with many other senators who do not think the Gulf Coast spill should lead to a snap judgment.

Thousands of gallons of crude have been belching into the Gulf of Mexico daily since an April 20 explosion at the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

"As I watch the TV every night, the heartbreaking spill in the Gulf just reminds us we've got to rush to a non-oil energy system in our country," Lieberman said. "But it's not going to happen overnight. We're going to need oil, and every barrel we get from American land or water is a barrel we don't have to pay Iran or Venezuela for."

Lieberman has previously spoken about several offshore drilling provisions, including revenue-sharing incentives for states and a veto for drilling within 75 miles of a state's shores. States would have no veto for drilling more than 75 miles out, and neighboring states would have no say.

The Kerry-Lieberman bill is also expected to call by 2020 for a 17 percent cut in emissions below 2005 levels, with the emission limits applying in different ways to power plants, petroleum refiners and trade-sensitive manufacturers. It also will include more loan guarantees for nuclear power and provisions that pre-empt U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under several sections of the Clean Air Act.

At tomorrow's press conference, Kerry and Lieberman are expected to be joined by a large coalition of business, environment, faith and national security groups, which Lieberman said "creates a new reality" in their uphill push for 60 votes.

"We've got a really impressive set of networks in the environmental and business communities who are prepared to go to work to support this bill," he said. "And to spend a fair amount of money doing it. This is not a pyrrhic effort."

'Quiet' expected from API on climate bill

Lieberman said he expects the American Petroleum Institute "to be quiet" about the climate proposal. And he sees a similar role for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The chamber will certainly be at least neutral and I hope after will give a generally optimistic or encouraging reaction, but not an endorsement," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last weekend he is open to moving just a "smaller" energy plan that passed last year out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That measure includes a nationwide renewable energy standard, an overhaul of federal financing for "clean energy" projects, a suite of efficiency measures, mandates for new federal electricity-transmission siting power, and allowances for wider oil and gas leasing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. But Reid also told the Univision network that he would push to include the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill if it picked up more GOP support.

Kerry and Lieberman have been working on their climate proposal since last fall with Sen. Lindsey Graham, but the South Carolina Republican is now on the sidelines because of what he describes as uncertainty over the Gulf oil spill and immigration politics.

Lieberman said he expects the Senate to debate energy and climate legislation in June or July after EPA and the Energy Information Administration complete their economic studies of the proposal.

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