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Environmentalists: Lame Duck Could be Last Chance to Pass Energy Proposals

Though Senate Democrats say there won’t be much time in the lame-duck session to pass significant energy legislation, environmentalists know it could be their last chance to move key bills, given the potential for Republicans to make gains in the mid-term elections. I wrote about this in a story today.

In an interview today, Marchant Wentworth, legislative representative at the Union of Concerned Scientists, echoed much of what I wrote.

“A lot of us are looking at the lame duck and we would see this as one of our last big chances to move a lot of this stuff,” Wentworth says. He adds that Republican gains in the Senate or House could reduce the chances of Republicans cooperating on legislation even in the lame duck. “If the Republicans take over the house, some folks believe that that would reduce any sort of impetus to deal in anything,” Wentworth says.

Wentworth says the only things that have a chance to come up for a vote in the lame duck are bills that can get 60 votes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), he said, does not want to try to pass controversial bills in November. “The general answer we get from Bingaman and others is that they will proceed on things that appear to have the greatest amount of support,” Wentworth says. “If you can demonstrate 60 votes, it increases the likelihood of it happening.”

The renewable energy standard proposal introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) has enough support to pass, Wentworth argues. The bill currently has 33 co-sponsors, including four Republicans. Wentworth says he is in discussion with other lawmakers to support the bill. “As it looks now, it looks that there’s enough interested to get past 60,” he says.

Wentworth also downplays the impact of a “clean energy standard” proposal being circulated by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The bill would allow nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage technology to count toward the standard. “I don’t think it’s going to pull support away,” Wentworth says. “Some of the people looking at Graham are people that wouldn’t necessarily be a ‘yes’ vote on an RES.”

Wentworth took some comfort in President Obama’s announcement that he will push for comprehensive energy legislation in 2011. He notes that passing energy bills in “chunks,” as Obama said, is probably the best way to make progress. But Wentworth says there’s little chance a cap-and-trade bill can pass next year. “I don’t think so,” he says when asked about it. “That’s our sense right now.”

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