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Senate's climate bill a bit more ambitious

The decision by Senate Democrats to give away large numbers of pollution permits angered some environmentalists, who noted that doing so would favor wealthier Americans who owned stock in companies affected by a national carbon cap.

The EPA analysis issued Friday said that the "free distribution of allowances to firms tends to be very regressive. . . . This is because the asset value of the allowances flows to households in the form of increased stock values or capital gains, which are concentrated in higher-income households."

Frank O'Donnell, head of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said lower- and middle-class consumers should not be penalized for not owning certain stocks. "This is one reason why auctioning permits is better than giving them away for free," he said.

While the Democrats plan a hearing on the bill on Tuesday and aim to mark up the measure within two weeks, committee Republicans might try to block the markup by denying the majority a quorum. The panel's top Republican, Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), issued a statement saying the 37-page EPA analysis was not thorough enough.

"The majority prefers to keep this bill under wraps for the very straightforward reason that it will destroy jobs, stifle economic growth and tax the energy Americans use every day," Inhofe said.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, an international group of lawmakers met in Copenhagen and agreed to promote common environmental principles, including national energy-efficiency targets, short- and medium-term emissions-reduction goals, and a mechanism for putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-author of the House climate bill, attended the meeting and said it was significant that the principles were endorsed by figures such as Wang Guangtao, who chairs China's Environment and Resource Protection Committee.


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