- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

House Democratic leaders declared an early victory on a climate bill Thursday, even as they still face sizable hurdles drafting the legislation and roping in moderate party members to pass one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities.

With House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, California Democrat, standing at his side, coal-state Democrat Rick Boucher of Virginia Thursday detailed major concessions he had won in the revised bill for industries which would be hit hardest by Mr. Obama’s proposed “cap-and-trade” plan to curb carbon emissions.

Mr. Waxman, tapped by House leadership to shepherd the climate legislation through the chamber, said he still expects to pass legislation through the full committee by the end of next week and said the text of the new draft of the Democratic legislation would be available late Thursday or Friday.

“I think it is a bill that will accomplish what the president has asked us to do,” Mr. Waxman said.

The new bill would give away 70 percent of the emissions permits from a carbon trading system to various industries for free and auction off the remaining 30 percent. The new split is a far cry from the proposed sale of all the carbon permits, something Mr. Obama and other Democratic leaders had said they would prefer.

The new climate draft also scales back the amount of energy utilities would have to purchase from renewable sources and lowers the target for greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2020 from 20 percent to 17 percent.

Mr. Obama has made combating global warming one of his top priorities, but has kept largely out of the House debate thus far, calling one meeting of the committee’s Democrats at the White House but leaving them to work out compromise legislation on their own.

While Mr. Boucher has been instrumental in rallying Democrats from coal-producing states and seeking concessions for other areas which would take an economic hit by the climate bill, former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, Michigan Democrat, was noticeably absent from the afternoon press conference.

Mr. Waxman dethroned Mr. Dingell in November, a coup some lawmakers have attributed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Dingell, the longest-serving member of the House and a leader among moderate Democrats, retains strong influence over the many of the rank-and-file lawmakers who served under him when he was committee chairman.

Separately, Republican lawmakers Thursday introduced an alternative climate bill which would largely rely on new emissions standards for power plants and spur the development of new nuclear plants.

Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Republican, met with Mr. Waxman Thursday afternoon to detail the Republican alternative and discuss the changes to the Democratic draft.

Mr. Barton said he is coordinating with other Democrats on the committee to introduce amendments to the Democratic proposal next week, but would not say who he is working with or what changes will be offered.

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