Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has pushed back her timeline for completing mark-up on climate change legislation to early September.

Boxer initially had said she wanted the committee to complete work on the bill and vote it out to the Senate floor by the Aug. 7 recess, but she postponed it to give herself more time to work on her legislative text and to give senators breathing room to digest the complex issues, as well as to grapple with heath-care legislation.

The delay is a ” recognition that there are so many things going on in the Senate that it wasn’t realistic to get the committee focused on highly contentious issues before the August break,” said Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA).

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also recognized the need for more time, giving six jurisdictional committees 10 more days — until Sept. 28 — to complete work on the comprehensive energy and climate change bill.

“There is a case to be made that delay definitely signals a problem, but we believe it is too early to definitively make that call,” said energy analyst Christine Tezak of Robert W. Baird & Co.

Tezak gives climate change legislation, which is based on a cap-and-trade system, a 30% chance of getting to the president’s desk this year. The Senate is expected to debate climate change on the floor this fall, assuming there is no conflict with the debate on health-care legislation.

“It’s going to be very challenging” to get climate change legislation through the Senate this year, agreed INGAA’s Edwards. If the bill should clear the chamber, it will be “especially difficult to get a conference agreement back in a short amount of time,” he noted.

“We don’t know yet” whether Reid plans to combine the climate change bill with the broad energy bill that was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, or offer them concurrently, Edwards said (see Daily GPI, June 18). He believes it would be a “little bit easier” to get the omnibus energy bill through the Senate as a stand-alone measure.

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