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March 15, 2009

Capitol Hotline (Mar. 16)

Cap-and-trade in Budget, EPA Emissions Tracking, Endangerment Finding Progress, Chu Supports Nuclear, Carbon Market/Tax Proposals

In this issue

  • Hot Topic of the Week
    • Environmental Non-Profits Support Cap-and-Trade Revenue in 2010 Budget; Reid Continues to Consider Reconciliation Process
  • USCAN Advocacy
    • Renew and Rebuild America: Pass Obama's Budget
  • Inside the Beltway
    • EPA Proposes Emission Tracking for Energy-Intensive Industries
    • Leaked EPA Documents Indicate Support for Endangerment Finding
    • Chu: Nuclear Power Essential Part of Energy Mix; Greenpeace and Sen. Sanders Report Otherwise
    • New Proposals Compete with Cap-and-Trade to Put a Price on Carbon
  • Outside the Beltway
    • Scientists Reaffirm Urgency of Action on Climate
    • Recent Gallup, Zogby Polls on Climate Change
    • Church World Service Launches 'Countdown to Copenhagen' Website
  • Capitol Hill Events
  • Other Headlines


Hot Topic of the Week


Environmental Non-Profits Support Cap-and-Trade Revenue in 2010 Budget; Reid Continues to Consider Reconciliation Process

Both Congressional Budget committees continue working on their respective budget resolutions this week. In letters to Budget committee chairmen in both houses of Congress, fourteen environmental organizations urged lawmakers to pass President Obama's budget, which includes nearly $650 billion in cap-and-trade revenue over eight years (SenateHouse).  Senator Kerry wants to add a $5 billion "reserve fund" to the FY 2010 budget to support agreements made in Copenhagen this December, such as financing adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries. Lawmakers in both houses of Congress say they want to adopt their resolutions before spring recess, beginning April 4. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is leaving open the possibility of pursuing cap-and-trade legislation through the budget reconciliation process, which would require 51 votes instead of 60 needed to break a filibuster. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer suggested the tactic last month, but some lawmakers, including at least seven Senate Democrats, say the reconciliation process shouldn't be used for something as complex as a climate bill. White House Energy and Climate Advisor Carol Browner declined to weigh in on where President Obama stands. "We are working to get the president's budget passed. We are not talking about the process at this point," said Browner. Read more at E&E (sub'd req.)


USCAN Advocacy


Renew and Rebuild America: Pass Obama's Budget

President Obama included revenue from a cap on carbon emissions in his FY 2010 budget request. This is the first major test of support for climate legislation in this Congress and so it is critical that we support the inclusion of revenue from a cap in the budget resolution. Congress plans to mark up the budget resolution the week of March 23 with a floor vote expected the week of March 30.

The broad Renew and Rebuild America Now campaign which launches today is organizing events across the country in support of Obama's budget. Use the letters to the budget committee chairmen mentioned above or use Sierra Club's action alert as talking points and call your members of Congress, especially if they are on the House or Senate budget committees. A good overview of the budget process, including budget reconciliation bills, is available here. For more information, contact Jennifer Kurz at


Inside the Beltway


EPA Proposes Emission Tracking for Energy-Intensive Industries

The EPA as proposed a rule that would require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from about 13,000 facilities in the United States. An EPA press release states that the registry would apply to energy intensive industry facilities like oil refineries, cement makers, utilities and automakers, which together account for 85-90 percent of the country's emissions. The proposed registry would help underpin a market-based carbon cap by enabling the EPA to track how much global warming pollution is emitted and from where. Read more at New York Times


Leaked EPA Documents Indicate Support for Endangerment Finding

The Obama administration plans to issue a finding on whether global warming threatens public health and welfare by mid-April, according to a leaked EPA PowerPoint presentation. Apparently, the EPA completed its scientific review of dangers relating to greenhouse gases last week and interagency review begins today. The document also suggests grouping six primary greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride -- into a single group, which would provide a "common currency" for future regulation. The so-called "endangerment finding" would allow the EPA broad flexibility in combating climate change in order to protect the public from its negative effects such as disease and injury due to floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and fires. Read more at New York Times

A Bush-era report, titled "Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act," was also leaked last week. The document includes several studies highlighting how global warming will likely result in intense U.S. heat waves and hurricanes, shifting plant and animal migration patterns and the possibility of up to a foot of global sea-level rise in the next century. A disclaimer in the executive summary stated that the conclusion on whether greenhouse gases may endanger public health or welfare is "ultimately left to the judgment of the [EPA] Administrator." Read more at New York Times


Chu: Nuclear Power Essential Part of Energy Mix; Greenpeace and Sen. Sanders Report Otherwise

Energy Secretary Chu reiterated his support of nuclear energy last week, including licensing new reactors. "I believe nuclear power is an essential part of our energy mix. It provides clean baseload generation for electricity," Chu told the Senate Budget Committee. Chu also said he supports DOE loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.  Read more at AP

Greenpeace and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have a different perspective in the new report "Energy [R]evolution." The report concluded that the United States could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 24% by 2020 without nuclear power or coal. The report also found that by utilizing current renewable energy technologies, these emission reductions could be achieved at half the cost and with twice the job creation compared to using nuclear power. Read the Green Peace press release


Various Proposals Join Cap-and-Trade on Capitol Hill

While a majority of members of Congress see cap-and-trade as the carbon pricing method of choice, a number of competing proposals have surfaced on Capitol Hill recently. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is drafting a "cap-and-refund" plan that would distribute revenue to all Americans without filtering it through government programs. Similar to Cantwell's proposal, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has floated the idea of a "cap-and-dividend" system that would auction off credits to release greenhouse gases and send about 90 percent of revenue back to all Americans with a social security number through monthly rebates. Last week seven House Democrats, including Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT) introduced a "carbon tax" that would gradually increase each year until the desired greenhouse gas reductions were achieved. Read more at Washington Post


Outside the Beltway


Scientists Reaffirm Urgency of Action on Climate

More than 2,500 delegates from nearly 80 countries attend the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark last week. Preliminary messages from the findings were delivered by the Congress' Scientific Writing Team. The conclusions will be published into a full synthesis report June 2009. The scientists concluded that the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized and cautioned that there is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts. The scientists raised concerns about the security challenges that could emerge as temperature rises above 2C and noted that climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. The scientists concluded that "inaction is inexcusable." They reaffirmed that available tools to decarbonise economies are available, but they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required. Read more at University of Copenhagen website


Recent Gallup, Zogby Polls on Climate Change

A Gallup poll released last week found that 41 percent of Americans believe that the media exaggerates the threat of global warming. The survey also found that when comparing eight environmental issues, global warming was the only one that dropped significantly in the past year.

A separate Zogby poll, commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation, found that 58.1 percent of voters agree with President Obama's statement calling for a "market-based cap on carbon pollution" during his Feb. 24 joint address to Congress. Majorities in all regions of the country agreed with the statement, although only 19.8 percent of polled Republicans supported a greenhouse gas cap.


Church World Service Launches 'Countdown to Copenhagen' Website

As part of an international effort by Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox communions around the world to build awareness and support for a strong international climate agreement that includes adaptation funding, Church World Service has launched the website "Countdown to Copenhagen," to push for climate justice at the upcoming UN climate negotiations this December. Countdown to Copenhagen has been endorsed by the member communions of Church World Service, a diverse group of faith groups from across the world. The website urges visitors to take a personal pledge to evaluate their lifestyles, contact Congress and to urge President Obama to commit to at least an 80% cut in domestic emissions by 2050 and to assist developing nations to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. Visit the Countdown to Copenhagen website


Capitol Hill Events


  • Mar. 17: Hearing on the status of climate change science (House Appr.)
  • Mar. 17: Hearing on Energy Department R&D Programs (House Sci & Tech.)
  • Mar. 17: Hearing on offshore oil and gas development (House NR)
  • Mar. 17: Hearing on nuclear weapons complex (House Appr.)
  • Mar. 17: Hearing on offshore and onshore oil and gas development (Senate ENR)
  • Mar. 17: USCAN Briefing: Industries Storm States over Climate Change, 2:30-3:00pm ET
  • Mar. 18: Hearing on international competition issues in cap-and-trade legislation (House E&C)
  • Mar. 18: Hearing on sustainable living and transit, Part 1 (House Appr.)
  • Mar. 18: Hearing on nuclear energy development (Senate ENR)
  • Mar. 18: Briefing on Alternative Transportation Fuels Part 1: Liquid Coal (EESI)
  • Mar. 19: Hearing on accountability in stimulus' science funding
  • Mar. 19: Hearing on stimulus oversight (House Oversight & Gov. Reform)
  • Mar. 19: Hearing on sustainable living and transit, Part 2 (House Appr.)
  • Mar. 19: Hearing on appliance energy efficiency legislation (Senate ENR)


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Marie Risalvato
Communications Director
352 514 3217

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