Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) Wednesday unveiled long-awaited legislation that seeks to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the measure isn’t likely to make significant headway this year given that the chamber’s already-packed agenda and the multiple congressional investigations into the massive Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil spill have overshadowed it.

“The combination of a tight congressional schedule, the spat over immigration and an uncontrolled oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still may prove to be hurdles too high for even the Obama White House to surmount when it comes to getting a bill to regulate greenhouse gases enacted this year. We’ve cut our odds to 10% from the slightly better than 50-50 we espoused only a few weeks ago that a climate bill can get enacted this year,” said energy analyst Christine Tezak with Robert W. Baird & Co.

“Given the relatively few legislative days remaining and high priority agenda items, including financial reform and a Supreme Court nomination, we believe it is unlikely that the bill can become law this year,” said FBR Capital Markets in its review of the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was less than enthused about the chances for the nearly 1,000-page American Power Act this year. He has made it clear that he will not take a climate change bill to the floor unless sponsors have rounded up the necessary 60 votes to fend off a filibuster, CQ Today reported.

To win those 60 votes, Kerry and Lieberman will need to attract support from Republicans and Democrats from producing states. As an enticement, they proposed incentives — such as revenue sharing for the coastal states — to encourage more offshore drilling, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time as 210,000 gallons a day of oil continue to spew in the GOM following a major well blowout. In concession to the states, the bill would give the states the authority to prohibit leasing within 75 miles of their coastline.

But the oil spill isn’t the only major obstacle facing the climate bill. It’s been in trouble ever since Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the only Republican sponsor of the legislation, withdrew from the talks in April due to Reid’s plan to place immigration legislation ahead of climate change on the Senate calendar (see Daily GPI, April 27).

The bill’s goal is to reduce global warming pollution to 17% of 2005 levels by 2050. Key parts of the legislation seek to:

“We appreciate the inclusion of language aimed at helping move toward the greater use of natural gas in merchant power generation and vehicles. While a useful starting point, we believe much more could be done right now to significantly reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants by providing clean energy transition incentives to electric utilities as well,” said Regina Hopper, president of America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

The American Gas Association (AGA), which represents natural gas utilities, echoes the sentiment. “While we are encouraged that natural gas utilities…are treated more equitably than in previous climate bills, we remain hopeful that the Senate will more fully recognize that natural gas customers represent the only sector of the population that has reduced carbon emissions by 40% over the last 40 years,” said AGA President David N. Parker.

“The Kerry-Lieberman bill is a work in progress. Few in Congress or the business community have had a chance to review the entire bill. Once all the details of the bill are known, the Energy Information Administration and the business community will need sufficient time to analyze the bill to ascertain its effects on the economy, jobs, the environment and energy markets,” said R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Environmental, consumer and small business organizations blasted the legislation.

“This bill is just business-as-usual: Taxpayer giveaways to giant nuclear and other energy corporations wrapped in the guise of doing something about our climate crisis. To call this a climate bill is greenwashing in the extreme. We need to direct our resources to the fastest, cheapest, cleanest and safest means of reducing carbon emissions — this bill does just the opposite,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director the Nuclear Information and Resources Service based in Takoma Park, MD.

From the renewables camp, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) applauded the effort and asked for swift action on the legislation.

“The wind energy industry appreciates the efforts of Senators Kerry and Lieberman to address climate change in their proposal,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “We look forward to seeing provisions on renewable energy like a strong Renewable Electricity Standard as well as energy efficiency to create new clean energy jobs and avoid carbon in the near term in any package considered by the Senate. We urge Senate Leadership to move quickly on strong legislation.”

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