Pollution Limit Bill Moves Through House

WASHINGTON (AP) - Legislation imposing the first nationwide
limits on the pollution blamed for global warming advanced in the
House late Thursday, clearing a key committee despite strong
Republican opposition.

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved the sweeping climate
bill 33-25 after repeatedly turning back GOP attempts to kill or
weaken the measure during four days of debate.

The panel's action increases the likelihood that the full House
for the first time will address broad legislation to tackle climate
change later this year. The Senate has yet to take up the issue.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the panel's chairman, said the bill
represents "decisive and historic action" to increase America's
energy security and deal with global warming. "When this bill is
enacted into law, we will break our dependence on foreign oil, make
our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology,
and cut global-warming pollution," said Waxman.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has promised to press for
passage of climate legislation this year, but prospects remain
uncertain, especially in the Senate. President Barack Obama has
told Congress he also wants a bill this year, ahead of
international climate talks in December.

The House bill requires factories, refineries and power plants
to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and six other greenhouse
gases by roughly 80 percent by mid-century and hasten the nation's
energy shift away from fossil fuels by putting a price on carbon
dioxide releases.

Only one Republican - Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California -
crossed party lines in support of the legislation. Four Democrats
voted against it. She said that while she had concerns about the
bill, including its cost, the country can't wait "to make needed
changes to our energy policy."

Waxman had vowed to get the 946-page bill out of his committee
before Memorial Day. Pressure on lawmakers to leave for the holiday
recess pushed the committee to wrap up late Thursday after
considering more than 80 amendments.

"The American people are overwhelmingly calling for a new
direction ... to take action in a way that changes forever our
relationship with imported oil, with the loss of jobs overseas,
with the pollution that is causing greenhouse gas warming on our
planet," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a co-sponsor of the
bill.

Republicans argued that the pollution cuts would lead to soaring
energy prices and threaten economic growth by imposing new costs on
energy-intensive industries already facing economic hardships.

"We don't want to put the economy in jeopardy," said Rep. Joe
Barton of Texas, the committee's ranking Republican. He offered an
alternative that would have scrapped the cap on greenhouse gases
and a requirement to produce more electricity from renewable
sources. It was defeated 35-19.

Barton said he had "serious concern about the redirection of
our energy policy in America."

"For the sake of our nation, I hope to some degree you are
right. I'm afraid that you're not. We will see," Barton told
Waxman minutes before the vote.

The legislation calls for the government to issue pollution
allowances, or permits, to businesses that could be traded on the
open market. The bill initially would give away 35 percent of the
allowances to electric utilities to prevent higher energy costs
from being passed on to consumers. The government also would sell
15 percent and use the money to provide direct relief to lower- and
middle-income families.

To get the support of Democrats from coal and industrial states,
Waxman had already agreed to give away significant emissions
allowances to industries in their states, including the electric
utilities, steel manufactures, automakers and refineries. The deal
also lowered the bill's targets for renewable energy and required a
smaller reduction by 2020 in the emissions blamed for global
warming.

Democrats this week added language to create a clean energy bank
to disperse grants for new forms of energy and inserted a "cash
for clunkers" program that would provide rebates to consumers who
turn in gas guzzling vehicles for more fuel-efficient cars.

Republicans said there were other ways to accomplish the same
goals.

"I guess our argument on this is there is so much a better way
to do this ... through innovation versus this big government
mandate," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. "Believe in this next
generation of Americans and you will be surprised how fast we can
meet these goals without ... the largest energy tax in the history
of the United States."

Environmentalists called the committee vote historic, even
though some said they hoped the bill would be strengthened.

"The takeaway is that climate legislation is on a path to the
president's desk," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental
Defense Fund. "This bill is a breakthrough."
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The bill is H.R. 2454.
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On the Net:
Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/
House Energy and Commerce Committee:
http://energycommerce.house.gov


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