Senate version adopts House's emission cuts

Staff and wire report

WASHINGTON -- Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled a long-awaited bill May 12 that aims to curtail pollution blamed for global warming, reduce oil imports and create millions of energy-related jobs.

The 987-page bill, the product of more than seven months of negotiations and tweaked recently in response to the Gulf oil spill, also includes new protections for offshore drilling and for the first time would set a price on carbon dioxide emissions produced by coal-fired power plants and other large polluters.

The legislation aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and by more than 80 percent by 2050. Both targets are measured against 2005 levels and are the same as those set by a House bill approved last year.

The bill would allow states to opt out of federal drilling up to 75 miles from their shores, a concession to lawmakers concerned about offshore exploration in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Kerry and Lieberman said the bill would exempt farms and most small and medium-sized businesses from the emissions provisions, concentrating efforts on the largest polluters. Restrictions would not take effect until 2013 for power plants and transportation fuels, and 2016 for manufacturers.

Allowances would be granted to local electricity companies, which would be required to use them to help customers.

The bill would offer incentives of up to $2 billion a year for companies that develop so-called clean coal technologies. It also has several provisions aimed at boosting nuclear power.

Like the prospects for an overhaul of immigration policy, climate legislation is given low chances of advancing this year.

Rick Krause, Farm Bureau's senior director of congressional relations, said earlier this year that Congress won't likely move climate legislation in the next few months. Krause could not be reached by deadline for specific comment on the Senate bill.

Washington's already polarized atmosphere is said to have recently increased, and is expected to further intensify as midterm elections loom in November, causing many politicians to play to core constituencies.

Political handicappers have also cited political fatigue, with lawmakers said to be fearing voter repercussions after passage of a controversial health care overhaul in March.

The Lieberman-Kerry bill does not propose a renewable-electricity standard, which it had been expected to contain. The conservative Heritage Foundation said in a recent report that such a standard would cause U.S. economic activity to shrink by $325 billion by 2035.

The Congressional Western Caucus said it opposes the bill.

Caucus chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said it contains "enormous fees and costs that energy producers will be forced to pass on to their consumers."

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