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ConocoPhillips Exec Optimistic Climate Change Will Pass House

Reported growing opposition by House Democrats to controversial climate change legislation isn't likely to jeopardize passage by the full House later this month, a spokesman for ConocoPhillips said Thursday.

"I think with the strong support of the administration and Democratic majority that they can make this happen by the end of the month," said Red Cavaney, senior vice president for government affairs at ConocoPhillips in Washington, DC. "It may well have to undergo a series of changes on the floor," but "I would be surprised if they don't ultimately succeed in getting a bill passed."

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has raised questions about the effect of the climate change legislation, which has the strong backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), on farming interests. And he "is awaiting answers...before he commits" to the bill, Cavaney said.

Peterson is at an impasse with the leading sponsor of the climate change bill, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and has said that he has a number of House Democrats -- as many as 45 votes -- that oppose the bill, The Hill newspaper reported. The number of defections could play havoc with the bill in the House.

"Given the breadth of the bill," it "should surprise no one" that questions are being raised, Cavaney said.

"We have several issues that we had hoped would be addressed, but haven't been so far," including that transportation consumers have not been given the same level of emission protections as utility consumers. Cavaney expects this and other issues to be addressed in the Senate.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted out the climate change bill in late May (see Daily GPI, May 26). It was then forwarded to several other committees that have jurisdiction -- Foreign Affairs; Financial Services; Education and Labor; Science and Technology; Transportation and Infrastructure; Natural Resources; Agriculture; and Ways and Means -- before going to the House floor. Pelosi has said she wants all the committee chairmen to complete their work by June 19.

The centerpiece of the climate change legislation is a system that would set a cap on carbon emissions and allow polluting industries to purchase and trade emission credits to comply with the cap. The House climate change measure would allocate approximately 85% of emission credit allowances to affected industries -- natural gas distributors, electricity distributors, energy-intensive manufacturers (i.e. steel, aluminum, paper and chemicals), automakers and refiners -- to offset the costs during a transition to a lower carbon environment (see Daily GPI, May 18). Most of the free allowances would phase out after 2025, to be replaced by the auctioning of emission credits.

While Cavaney expects the climate change bill to clear the House, he said in April that he thinks it would be a "heavy lift" for the measure to be passed by Congress and sent to the president's desk this year (see Daily GPI, April 29).

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