- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

Moderate House Democrats circulated a watered-down version of a sweeping climate-change-prevention bill Friday as lawmakers moved closer to a compromise on a proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee went “back to the future,” turning to Democratic and Republican leaders of the ‘90s, former Vice President Al Gore and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to debate the merits of energy measures that will likely dominate the next century.

Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat, the de facto leader of the committee’s moderate Democrats, circulated a list of amendments designed to ease regulations outlined in the climate bill pending in committee and met with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, to discuss the legislation.

The four-page list, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, proposed to answer a key question not detailed in the bill drafted by Mr. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat: How much should businesses pay to reduce carbon emissions?

Under the proposal, electric utilities would be given 40 percent of the allowances created through a “cap-and-trade” system that would require companies to hold one allowance for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

The changes would also:

• Strip a provision in the bill that would have allowed citizens to sue the government based on harm, or potential harm, from climate change.

• Provide bonus allowances for “early adopters” of clean coal technology.

• Scale back greenhouse gas reduction mandates compared with the Waxman-Markey bill; the alternative would require that carbon dioxide be reduced 6 percent by 2020, 44 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. The Waxman-Markey bill has a much accelerated timeline.

• Provide free allowances to “energy intensive industries” as outlined in a 2008 bill introduced by Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Jay Inslee of Washington State.

• Reduce a federal mandate for utilities to use renewable energy sources to 15 percent by 2025 instead of the Waxman-Markey proposal of 25 percent by that date.

A Boucher spokeswoman said she believed the list to be outdated and that no drafts had been made public yet.

House Democratic leaders have said they would like to see a climate bill passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee by Memorial Day, but they have yet to detail how allowances - which could cost businesses and industry tens of billions of dollars a year - would be distributed.

Mr. Waxman deputized Mr. Boucher late in March to round up support for the climate bill among moderate Democrats and party members from coal states.

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