- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

Moderate Democrats have assembled a list of changes they’d like to see to the sweeping climate bill being debated in the House, including more aid to business and industry which would be hit by a carbon trading system to curb greenhouse gases.

The changes, detailed in a four-page list obtained by The Washington Times, would require that 40 percent of carbon permits be given to the utilities and that the government scale back implementation of the cap on carbon emissions.

The changes would also strip a provision in the bill which would have allowed citizens to sue the government based on the harm, or potential harm from climate change.

The draft version of the bill was put together by Democrats House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman of California and Rep. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, head of the panel’s key subcommittee on the environment.

“Congressmen Waxman and Markey are trying to give free allowances to get votes, or they appear to be,” said Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing Friday.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Rick Boucher, Virginia Democrat who is leading the discussion among moderate Democrats, said the list “appears to be a very early draft that has since been substantially revised.”

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

The so-called “cap and trade” plan at the center of the climate bill would require that businesses hold a permit for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Utility executives and business leaders have said any cost would be passed onto consumers.

At Friday’s hearing, former Vice President Al Gore gave a strong endorsement of the bill. But former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich was expected to express major reservations about the Waxman-Markey outline.

• Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com.

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