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House Leader Says 'Breakthroughs' Made on Climate Change Bill

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have made "breakthroughs this week" on climate change legislation, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D- CA) has agreed to trim the carbon-reduction target for 2020 to 17% from 20%, Hoyer told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy in Washington, DC.

The renewable electricity standard, which previously required that 25% of all electricity be produced from renewable fuels by 2020, has been cut to15%, he said. And the committee has committed to allocate 35% of total emission credits to distribution utilities, according to The Hill. This is slightly less than the 40% allocation that utilities had sought.

"I think the chairman hopes to mark it [climate change bill] up next week," Hoyer told reporters. "We expect to bring it this summer" to the House floor, he noted.

"For those here [who are] concerned about the cost, the Energy and Commerce Committee has already made significant gains," he said.

"Major energy legislation is coming," as well as climate change legislation, Hoyer said. ""Significant action on energy is more likely this year than at any time in recent memory." The climate change bill, the center of which is a cap-and-trade system, "will be America's first serious effort to cap" carbon emissions, he noted.

The country is in the "midst of [a] transformative time" with respect to energy policy, according to Hoyer.

He also believes efforts should be focused on building a smart transmission grid. An estimated $4.5 billion has been earmarked for matching utility investments in their transmission systems.

Hoyer said he believes it would be "foolish to put aside either of those alternatives" -- coal and nuclear. "Personally I am very hopeful" that after a three-decade hiatus the country will move forward on nuclear.

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