After two months of negotiations and a week of 14-hour days, bitter partisan arguments, scapular probing at the minutiae of the bill, and round after round of GOP amendments, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA,1) and the rest of the House energy committee finally finished marking up the American Clean Energy Security Act yesterday. This year's comprehensive climate bill, of which Inslee was one of the major authors and most fervent defenders, may be one of the largest packages of legislation ever undertaken by Congress. [Editor's note: Sorry, Chris is only 21.]
"Since coming to Congress, I have worked tirelessly to harness America’s innovative genius to break our country’s dependence on foreign oil and make this country the world leader in clean energy technologies,” said Inslee in a statement. “The passage of this bill... is an historic moment for the Energy and Commerce Committee.”
Among the key provisions Inslee safeguarded out of the committee, Inslee's office reports, is the creation of a clean energy bank, a central bank set up solely to finance research and development of clean energy technology and a loan guarantee program for setting up new transmission lines. Of course, there's also the cap-and-trade program. Inslee went for the standard version—similar to the Obama proposal, as opposed to more lefty variants like Sen. Maria Cantwell's rebate version where money goes back to consumers or Rep. Jim McDermott's de facto carbon tax. Inslee's version also gives a leg up to carbon-intensive industries like steel, glass, and pulp and paper manufacturers. (According to opensecrets.com, timber industry giant Weyerhaeuser is a major Inslee donor).
At one point, the debate became reminiscent of a fight that broke out in Olympia this year—energy committee Republicans argued that nuclear and hydroelectric power should be included in the bill's list of viable renewable resources.
Inslee was defiant, just as he was earlier this year when he came home to defend I-937, which Inslee advocated strongly for when it was introduced in 2006.
"Whereas nuclear and hydro are very clean, and very efficient, and very efficacious, they are not new," said Inslee, according to the Huffington Post. The amendment to add hydro and nuclear to the list of renewables was voted down.
One Inslee proposal missing from the list of provisions his office is touting is his measure to create a low-carbon fuel standard, which aims at a gradual 10 percent reduction of greenhouse gas chemicals present in transportation fuel. California, which adopted the first-ever low-carbon fuel standard last month, ultimately had to give concessions to producers of corn-based ethanol, which has apparently has a negligible effect on reducing emissions.
I have a call in to Inslee's office to see what happened to the fuel standard proposal and to see if Rep. Brian Baird's (D-WA, 3) biomass provisions were included.
The climate legislation will now enter the House docket, and is expected to reach a vote by the beginning of summer.
Also, while going through the Internet to find first-hand accounts of the House debate, I found two great exchanges between Inslee and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX,6), the ranking Republican on the energy committee. (The first one may explain why we aren't hearing back from Rep. Inslee's office today.)
From Climate Progress:
“You should have a tremendous celebration tonight for your effort on this bill.”
—House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking minority member Joe Barton (R-TX) to Jay Inslee (D-WA), a little after 7 PM EST.
Barton also said to Inslee, “you have been an indefatigable proponent of the bill.”
According to Fox News Radio:
At 11:27 pm, Waxman announced that Reps. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) would offer the last amendment of the night. Their plan would grant states the power to set some energy rates. The amendment galled Barton.
“It is late,” Barton started. “But this is probably the worst amendment we’ve seen today.”
Inslee took umbrage with Barton’s criticism.
“The fact that Mr. Barton has said I have the worst amendment has guaranteed my re-election in Washington’s First District,” Inslee countered.