Update Of Climate Change Legislation

Author:Ms Margaret Hill
Profession:Blank Rome LLP


President Obama and the Democratic majority that accompanied him to Washington devoted a substantial portion of the administration's first year in office, the first session of the 111th Congress, to passing a comprehensive climate change bill that would cap domestic greenhouse gas emissions and encourage investment in energy efficiency projects and clean energy technologies. On June 26th, 2009, the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats looked well on their way to accomplishing this goal when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, by a seven vote margin. However, once the bill reached the Senate, a number of moderate Democrats balked at supporting a bill that they believed would hurt an economy that was already shedding thousands of jobs each month in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. Ultimately, any chance of a climate bill landing on the president's desk in 2009 died when Republicans boycotted the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's markup of the legislation. The reluctance of moderate Democrats to support comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation, combined with the staunch oppositions of Republicans, left Senate leadership without enough votes to bring a bill based on the House approved legislation to the Senate floor.

Despite the inability of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to gather enough votes for a climate change package; the Obama Administration has remained committed to pursing legislation capping greenhouse gas emissions. In December 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency released an endangerment finding which concluded that unabated greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to public health. This determination allows the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the authority given to the agency in the Clean Air Act. Regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act would impose a heavy burden of a number of inconsequential emitters, and for this reason President Obama has often said he would prefer to limit emissions legislatively. Thus, many in Washington have interpreted the release of the endangerment finding as a tool to compel congressional action on climate change.


It appears as if the Obama Administration's prodding had the desired effect. Since late 2009, a bipartisan group of three Senators-Lindsay Graham (R-NC), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and John Kerry (D-MA)-have been soliciting the advice and support of their...

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