- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2009


Democratic lawmakers who spent much of the Bush administration blasting officials for letting energy lobbyists write national policy have turned to a coalition of business and environmental groups to help draft their own sweeping climate bill.

And one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition’s co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, both of California, were among the Democrats — then in the minority — who slammed Vice President Dick Cheney for holding closed-door meetings to draft energy policy early in the Bush administration.

Republicans “invited energy lobbyists to write the energy bill that gouges consumers with big payoffs to Big Gas and Big Oil,” Mrs. Pelosi said in 2005. “They have turned Washington, D.C., into an oil and gas town when it is supposed to be the city of innovation, of new, of fresh ideas about our energy policy.”

But the sweeping climate bill Mr. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the panel’s key environmental subcommittee, introduced at the end of March includes a provision that benefits Duke Energy Corp., a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), whose climate plan released in January the lawmakers have frequently called a “blueprint” for their climate legislation.

The exemption would save Duke Energy — along with other firms now building new coal power plants — from having to spend millions of dollars outfitting its Cliffside, N.C., power plant currently under construction with “clean coal” technology.

“The USCAP companies must be delirious over the freebies that they’ve received after writing the blueprint for [the House draft bill],” said Larry Neal, deputy Republican staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

At the kickoff to hearings last week on the massive climate bill, Myron Ebell, climate and energy policy director for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told lawmakers, “The authors of the draft bill have invited the beneficiaries of what could turn out to be the biggest transfer of wealth from consumers to special interests in American history to write the rules for this legalized plunder.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Waxman rejected any parallel with the previous administration.

“It’s just not a fair comparison,” said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for Mr. Waxman, saying the process for the climate bill had been far more transparent.

Members of the Cheney energy task force crafted energy policy in secret in 2001, and Democratic lawmakers spent months battling the Bush administration to release records of the meetings, she said.

By contrast, Mr. Waxman’s committee has held dozens of hearings on the topic of climate change, and USCAP’s blueprint has been publicly touted since its January release, Ms. Lightfoot said.

It was USCAP that provided language to the Waxman-Market draft that effectively bars construction of new coal-fired projects for 10 to 15 years, until “clean coal” technology is developed. The draft bill has language that effectively shields Duke and few other energy companies from the restrictions for unfinished plants already well along in the permitting process.

Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey have said they used USCAP’s climate-change proposal as a “blueprint” for the broad-based legislation they outlined in late March and are starting to put into final form.

Story Continues →