Climate Bill Would Ease Energy Costs, Senator Says

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

Senate Democrats will initially devote 70 percent of the pollution allowances in their new climate measure to making it easier for people to pay their energy bills, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer said in an interview to be aired Sunday on C-SPAN.

Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation this week with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) aimed at limiting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. It would force any facility emitting at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year to obtain pollution permits. The bill does not indicate how these pollution allowances would be allocated, but Boxer said on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that Democrats are prepared to give away allowances to make carbon-intensive commodities such as electricity more affordable.

"The vast majority of allowances will go to consumers to keep them whole," Boxer said.

An aide to the senator said the panel was still working on the precise language of the bill, so it was too early to say whether all of those allowances would be given away free. It probably will be modeled on the House-passed bill, which aids consumers by providing free allowances to local electricity distribution companies as well as low income consumer rebates and tax credits and other measures.

Boxer also acknowledged that the climate bill does not have enough votes to pass right now in the Senate, adding that she will work to change that. "We're gaining ground, but at this point I can't count to 60," she said. "But you just do your job and move forward."

To win votes, Kerry and Boxer have said they are willing to make compromises, and Boxer reiterated that in her interview, suggesting that the current target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gases 20 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels could change.

"I can't predict the end game," she said, adding that she is confident her panel will produce an ambitious bill but that it might change as it moves through the Senate. "This is the environment committee, not the pollution committee. . . . This should be the high-water mark."

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