- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

While taking questions last week, Rep. Neil Abercrombie raised the specter of that timeless legislative query: Legislation might look dead, but is it dead, dead?

A reporter asked Mr. Abercrombie, Hawaii Democrat, whether he thought a sweeping climate bill being pushed by House Democratic leadership against diverse opposition from within the party, was dead on arrival.

“I’ve seen too many — too many instances of what I call the Lazarus effect, the dead rise and walk again,” Mr. Abercrombie said last week, at a news conference announcing compromise climate legislation.

Of course, the climate bill drafted by Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts has hit a rocky patch among the Democratic rank and file, leading some to wonder whether climate change legislation (at least from the House) might have to wait until next year. But more on that in “The Week Ahead” section that follows …

Still just a symbol

It looks like the polar bear, which has become a symbol of global warming’s ravages, is set to remain just that: symbolic.

Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar chose Friday to stick by Bush-era regulations of the polar bear as an endangered species: a more limited approach than many environmentalists had sought. Green groups, and lawmakers, had been seeking to use expanded regulatory powers to curb greenhouse gas emissions using the Endangered Species Act, but the Obama administration chose a more conservative tack.

“I disagree with the Department of Interior’s decision to limit the tools we have available under the Endangered Species Act to save the polar bear from extinction,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, California Democrat. “Monitoring the situation will not tell us more than we know now — that the polar bear is threatened and we need to act.”

The erstwhile furry, white Coca-Cola mascots have become more symbolic of the environmental movement ever since government scientists found in 2004 an increase in the number of polar bears dying after failing to successfully swim between shrinking ice-sheets,.

The Obama administration has not shied away from using multiple fronts in its efforts to curb global warming — see the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas — but it appears as though that the using ESA as a tool isn’t in the cards.

The Week Ahead

While the House climate bill floats in limbo (publicly) the gears of compromise sound like they are falling into place (privately.) And while House Democratic leaders promise to meet a Memorial Day deadline for passing the bill (a sparse two weeks away) the logistics of moving such a broad-based bill a still unclear.

There’s still no word on when a new draft of the House climate bill will be released, although Rep. Henry A. Waxman has said sometime this week is likely.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee takes up President Obama’s proposed spending on the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday. And the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold more hearings this week, but it’s unclear whether the members will take up some of the more divisive portions of the energy legislation being crafted.

And, presidential bonus on the energy beat this week: former President Jimmy Carter is set to testify on energy security Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The HR File

Joseph T. Kelliher, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Bush administration, has taken a job at Florida Power and Light as an executive vice president.

Pat Pourchot will work as the Interior Department’s special assistant for Alaska Affairs. He’ll work from Alaska where he’s served as a state lawmaker and environmental advocate.

Got a staff change? Drop me a line.

Tom LoBianco can be reached at [email protected]

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