Is there an Impetus for Climate Change Legislation in the Senate?


While speaking to the Bard Center for Environmental Policy’s National Climate Seminar last week, Jeff Sharp, one of Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) staff members, said about climate change legislation, “We expect more things to be moving forward.” Passing cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate “will be a very tough fight,” he added. However, Sharp pointed out that the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act last summer which would create a cap-and-trade program, and set an emissions reduction target of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The Senate Environment Committee approved a version of ACES early last month. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) will have to “put votes together” to pass the legislation, Sharp said. He said there are “solid votes in favor of the bill.” Ten to fifteen votes on both sides of the political aisle “must be picked up in order to pass the legislation. Although climate change legislation will not be passed in the Senate until next year, Sharp said, “There will continue to be impetus for climate change legislation.”

Perhaps the recent announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that greenhouse gases (GHG) “threaten public health and welfare” will be an impetus for the Senate to pass ACES. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform.”

Climate change is “also a problem of competitiveness and jobs,” Sharp said. “Until we in the United States accept the new framework we’re going to be facing… we’re not going to be helping our economy.” The U.S. needs to develop new energy sources and technology in order to face the new framework, Sharp added.

Clean Energy Jobs Will Continue to Push Senate

According to Markey staff member and the senior counsel to the House Select Committee on Energy, Finance, and Global Warming, Michael Goo, economic drivers have been central to the debate about climate change legislation all year long. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly known as the stimulus, included funding for clean energy and clean tech research. Goo said, “A lot of that money is still coming through.”

He added:

I think it is the clean energy jobs that will continue to push the Senate. The Senate is going to be faced with looking at jobs, and how you create jobs. They are sitting there with a job bill called Waxman/Markey (ACES) that the House has sent them, and that is going to continue to put pressure on them to take up that legislation.

According to a press release by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, ACES will “create millions of new clean energy jobs.” The legislation would create a renewable electricity standard (RES) which would require large utilities to produce six percent of their energy from renewables by 2012, and 20 percent by 2020. By 2025, under ACES, clean energy and energy efficiency would receive $190 billion in funds. In addition, ACES would create a Clean Energy Deployment Administration to provide loans for clean energy technologies.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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