FACTBOX-U.S. Congress action on climate bill

WASHINGTON, April 19 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. Congress has been
struggling for years to pass legislation to reduce smokestack
emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that
scientists link to global warming.

Republicans have mostly opposed such efforts, so the
Democrats’ takeover of the House of Representatives and Senate,
as well as President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, gave
environmentalists new hope of success.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is threatening to
start regulating carbon emissions for the first time, if
Congress fails to pass legislation.

Here is a rundown of congressional action on climate change
legislation since last year:

* HOUSE PASSAGE

On June 26, 2009, the House passed a bill setting new
economy-wide pollution controls. The 1,500-page measure was
narrowly approved, by a vote of 219-212. Forty-four Democrats
voted against it and only eight Republicans supported it.

The centerpiece of the bill is an economy-wide “cap and
trade” system that places continually-declining limits on
carbon emissions. Utilities, oil refineries and factories would
have to hold permits for every ton of emissions and those
permits could be traded on a regulated market, thus creating a
price on carbon.

By 2020, U.S. smokestack emissions would fall 17 percent
from 2005 levels and 83 percent by 2050. Theoretically,
cleaner, alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar
power, would become more competitive with fossil fuels like oil
and coal over the years.

Democrats and Republicans argued over whether the bill
would create new jobs in the U.S. or the opposite.

House passage of a bill allowed Obama to attend last
December’s Copenhagen summit on climate change claiming some
progress on U.S. action, but far short of a law being enacted
that many had hoped for before the annual international talks.

* SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVAL

Last Nov. 5, the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee passed a bill, without any Republican support, that
built on the House-passed bill. It was somewhat more ambitious,
with its goal of a 20 percent cut in U.S. carbon emissions by
2020, from 2005 levels.

But the bill did not have enough support outside the
liberal-leaning committee to advance in the full Senate.

* BIPARTISAN SENATE NEGOTIATIONS

Late last year, Democratic Senator John Kerry joined with
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in an attempt to craft a
compromise bill that could gain enough support to pass the
Senate this year. Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman joined
in.

The three senators have struggled to strike the right
balance, but there are plans to unveil their initiative next
Monday, April 26.

To capture some Republican votes, they are expected to set
up new government incentives for expanded offshore oil drilling
and more nuclear power capacity.

Cap and trade would apply initially only to the electric
power utility sector, with manufacturers starting to phase in
later. A transportation sector fee — probably on motor fuels
— would be linked to carbon prices in the utility sector.

* SENATE COMMITTEE REVIEW

Several Senate committees will take a look at the
Kerry-Graham-Lieberman effort. It’s still unclear whether any
of them will demand time-consuming hearings and rewriting of
the proposal.

* EPA/CBO REVIEW

An economic analysis of the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill
will be conducted, which could take four or five weeks to
conclude. The oil industry wants the Energy Department’s Energy
Information Administration to do its own analysis.

* FULL SENATE DEBATE

If the Kerry compromise bill gets enough support, Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid will schedule it for debate in the
full Senate, which also could take several weeks.

This could occur in June or July, depending on how quickly
support gathers for the bill and whether the Senate has made
progress on other measures, such as banking industry (Read more about the banking industry recovery.) reform.

The bill would be subject to amendments in the full Senate.
One obvious one would be scaling back the 17 percent
emissions-reduction target for 2020, say to 14 percent.

* SENATE-HOUSE COMPROMISE

If the Senate manages to pass a bill that no doubt would
differ significantly from the House-passed bill, a new, unified
measure would have to be agreed upon by negotiators. That
compromise would then have to be approved by the Senate and
House before it could be sent to Obama for signing into law. If
things went well, that could happen in September or October, or
possibly toward the end of the year, if there is a special
session after the November congressional elections.

* IF THE SENATE FAILS

Failure to pass a comprehensive climate bill opens three
possibilities:

— Congress approves a slimmed-down bill encouraging more
alternative energy production, which would not be enough to
tackle global warming in an effective way;

— Congress starts over next year, but Democrats would have
less influence if they lose seats, as expected, in the November
elections;

— EPA takes over and moves to begin regulating greenhouse
gases, which would trigger industry lawsuits.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, editing by Jackie frank)

FACTBOX-U.S. Congress action on climate bill