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Environmentalist Criticizes Utility-Only Negotiations

Not every environmental group is encouraged by the efforts to come to a consensus with the electric industry on a utility-only cap on emissions. One environmentalist source told TWI that negotiations with electric utilities will inevitably result in a “flawed product” based on too many compromises. “I’m just not confident that this is a winning strategy,” the source said.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who co-authored a climate change bill with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and is also circulating a scaled-down version of the proposal this week, has “done a terrible job of managing the process,” the source continues, adding, “We’ve seen a really failed strategy championed by Kerry to try to get a climate bill that just hasn’t built the momentum necessary to pass.”

The source predicts that the utility-only negotiations will fail, an energy bill with a renewable energy standard will pass and Congress will consider next year a proposal by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would cap carbon emissions and return revenues back to Americans.

Bradford Plumer has a smart roundup of some of the concessions industry is calling for in exchange for their support for a utility-only bill:

Utilities may agree to the proposal, but not without extracting some heavy concessions. And what they’re demanding could turn the bill into a disaster. According to Politico, utilities would support a cap if they get relief from various EPA regulations governing a whole swath of different pollutants—not just heat-trapping gases like carbon-dioxide, but also sulfur-dioxide (which causes acid rain), and harmful emissions like mercury and nitrogen oxide.

But Plumer notes that environmental groups are only willing to concede so much:

[E]nvironmental groups seem to be opposed to the utility deal at the moment. A lot of greens have been pushing for cap-and-trade for a long time, and it would be a major victory for them if they got it this year, but it seems that even the groups most committed to compromise can see that this trade-off just isn’t worth it.

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