Obama's chief of staff huddles with enviro leaders

This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. EDT.

President Obama's chief of staff summoned environmental leaders and other key administration allies to the White House today to discuss energy and climate legislation expected to be released in the Senate on April 26.

Rahm Emanuel met for about 30 minutes with a group that included League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope, Center for American Progress President John Podesta, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp, Alliance for Climate Protection CEO Maggie Fox, Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke, National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger and Sheila O'Connell of Unity '09, a Democratic umbrella group.

The environmental groups are hopeful Obama will keep pushing Congress during this election year to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation amid several of his other top domestic agenda items, including Wall Street regulatory reform and a nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Speaking last week in Washington, Larry Summers, Obama's top economic adviser, signaled the issues remain atop the administration's agenda (Greenwire, April 12). "There's no question that going forward for the rest of this year, a bipartisan energy solution is an absolutely critical priority for the president," he said.

Details on today's West Wing meeting remain unclear. A White House spokesman referred calls to Emanuel's office, which did not return requests for comment. Several of the environmental officials declined to comment as they left the White House.

Sources on and off Capitol Hill said Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have settled on Monday, April 26, as their date for release of the climate and energy package they have been crafting for about six months. The proposal is expected to set a series of greenhouse gas emission limits for different sectors of the economy, with an overall goal of reducing U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It also likely will expand domestic production of oil, gas and nuclear power.

The senators and their staff have had another packed week of meetings, including closed-door talks with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner; Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.); officials from Shell Oil Co., BP America and ConocoPhillips; Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens; and members of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Also today, at least nine Democratic senators with heavy industry in their states will release a letter detailing what they expect to see in the energy and climate proposal, including a border adjustment fee to limit imports from developing countries that do not have their own strict environmental requirements.

"It's just clearly laying out all the manufacturing and high-energy user issues," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a lead organizer on the letter with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Others signing onto the letter include Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).


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