Last week, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman
Pete Domenici (R-NM) brought S. 14, the National Energy Policy Act of
2003, to the Senate floor. All indications point to the legislation
being there until September. One of the major reasons for this
protracted consideration will be what the federal government should
do about the control of greenhouse gases.
Domenici was able to get his committee to report S. 14 to the Senate
floor by a deliberate strategy of avoiding issues that would surely
sidetrack his legislation. In introducing his bill on the floor,
Domenici explained, "in Committee, we also deferred to the floor
debate over climate change. I know the debate is coming, and I saw
no reason in consuming the time of the Committee on a matter sure to
be reconsidered on the floor."
Domenici's prediction is a certainty. At a hearing last week, Senate
Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John McCain
(R-AZ) made clear his intentions to offer an amendment to the
National Energy Policy Act on climate change. McCain is one of five
Senate cosponsors of S. 139, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003.
Introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) on January 9, this bill
would establish a market-driven system of emission gas allowances
that could be traded by major producers of greenhouses gases.
Similar legislation to reduce acid rain emissions was passed in 1990.
The ultimate goal of S. 139 is to reduce greenhouse gases to the 1990
level by the year 2016. Lieberman described this bill as the "first
ever comprehensive legislation to limit the emissions of greenhouse
gases in the United States." In his remarks on the Senate floor,
McCain said, "While we cannot say with 100% confidence what will
happen in the future, we do know the emission of greenhouse gases is
not healthy for the environment. As many of the top scientists
throughout the world have stated, the sooner we start to reduce these
emissions, the better off we will be in the future." At last week'
hearing, McCain described the cautiousness of scientists, saying it
provided opponents of climate change legislation a rationale for
delay. That, he said, makes it all the more difficult to secure
votes. McCain described the opposition to such legislation as
"significant," later saying "sometimes it is a bit lonely."
Bill Nelson (D-FL), who described himself as a "soul mate"
on this issue, said "we've got quite an educational process to
The Lieberman bill is not the only climate change proposal on the
table, as there are at least three other bills that would control
greenhouse gases. Indicative of how difficult the energy policy
legislation will be to move through the Senate is the general
consensus that Domenici's original target date for the completion of
this bill of Memorial Day is now seen as extending into September.