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Weekly Mulch: Bad News Bill

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By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium blogger

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) met with industry groups Wednesday evening to discuss their much anticipated tripartisan climate legislation. Based on leaks from the meeting, it sounds like the climate bill will be incredibly industry friendly, which may mean that the bill does little to help the environment.

A syncing feeling

According to reports from sources in the meeting room, the bill calls for greenhouse gas curbs across multiple economic sectors, with a 2020 target of reducing emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Power plant emissions would be regulated in 2012, other major industrial sources will be phased in during 2016.

But the bill contains major concessions to the industry, according to Aaron Wiener at The Washington Independent. The senators' proposal would halt dozens of state climate laws and regulations and preempt U.S. EPA climate regulations under the Clean Air Act.

As Kate Sheppard reports for Mother Jones:

The head lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Josten, told reporters after the meeting that he believes the bill will be 'largely in sync' with what most industry types would like to see. The Chamber, of course, has been one of the most formidable foes of climate legislation to date. In addition to the Chamber, the senators also met with the Edison Electric Institute, American Petroleum Institute, and Portland Cement Association.

A climate bill that syncs up with organizations opposed to climate legislation. Really? But, like Sheppard writes, although these leaks from the meeting don't sound too great in terms of climate, "Kerry had already scaled back expectations on that front."

The fears

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have argued that an "energy-only" bill, which would focus on wider financial support for low-carbon energy projects, a national renewable electricity mandate, and allows wider oil-and-gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, among other measures, would be easier to pass than a comprehensive bill.

As David Roberts writes for Grist, this refers to the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA), which passed last year. But unlike the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) that passed the House, with substantial parts devoted to directly supporting clean energy and boosting energy efficiency, ACELA "sucks," according to Roberts. He writes:

As a standalone bill, it does virtually nothing for renewables, boosts efficiency a middling amount, and dumps a bonanza of subsidies on offshore drilling, nuclear power, tar sands, oil shale, and natural gas. It also weakens the Renewable Fuel Standard. It's a minor deviation from the awful energy status quo and would be a depressing end indeed to the year-long Obama-era effort to finally address America's energy problems.

The real bill

Many details of the forthcoming legislation are still unclear, and the real bill isn't expected to be released for another few weeks. Environmental groups who attended a meeting with Kerry yesterday to discuss details of the bill were close-mouthed about their reactions, and stressed that the bill is still in draft stages and may change significantly, as Sheppard writes at Mother Jones.

Let's hope the final bill will offer real solutions to fight global warming and curb greenhouse gas emissions. National Radio Project talked with several climate change activists who discussed the steps needed to make significant change following the less-than-concrete outcomes from Copenhagen. It's definitely worth a listen.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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