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If Climate Bill Is Dead, What Can Environmentalists Expect This Year?

Reporters are already writing climate change legislation’s obituary, given failed attempts by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to negotiate a compromise with industry groups that could garner the necessary 60 votes for passage of such a proposal. But if climate change legislation fails to pass the Senate this year, what energy- and environment-related provisions will pass?

First, it appears all but certain that Congress will pass an oil spill response bill this year. The House is moving quickly on its version of the package, passing two bills yesterday and preparing to unveil a broad response package next week. But, according to The Hill, at least one liberal Democrat is raising concerns that the House package is being watered down. The Senate is working on its own oil spill response package, which is slated to be included in a broad climate and energy bill. With the fate of that bill unknown, it’s unclear how the spill bill will move.

Second, there is a growing push among liberal Democrats and a number of renewable energy trade groups to pass a strong renewable energy standard this year (I wrote about this effort here). The energy bill passed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year includes a 15 percent RES, which environmentalists say is too weak. The prospect of a scaled-back energy-only bill that focuses on an RES and energy efficiency provisions has been tossed around as a possible alternative to a comprehensive climate and energy bill for months.

Third, and least likely, there is the possibility that climate legislation, with a compromise utility-only cap, could move after the August recess. But the conventional wisdom is that prospects for moving major legislation in the fall are slim because lawmakers will be focused on the midterm elections.

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