President Obama is convening a meeting tomorrow to explore all possible alternatives that would lead to passage of a climate bill before the midterm elections. The most likely alternative that will receive consideration is a much narrower cap that would only be applied to utilities. Under this approach, the provisions covering large industrial emitters and the transportation sector set forth in Senator Kerry’s American Power Act would be cut out. This from Climatewire:
"I think the chances of a comprehensive bill are abysmal," Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said in an interview last week, referring to legislation offered by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
"Do I think there is a chance of something that is narrower for carbon, like the pricing of utilities? I think that’s possible," she added. "If all we can get is utilities, it’s not bad."
A handful of crucial senators are planning to attend, including Richard Lugar (Ind.), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), all Republicans whose support Obama will seek to eventually secure. Democrat Sherrod Brown (Ohio), another undecided senator, will also be there, according to a survey of offices by E&E.
A deal on just utilities looks unlikely. However, it has the best chance of any current proposal. The key will be whether utilities will view this as an opportunity to secure "certainty" with regarding to the greenhouse gas requirements. The ability to establish the regulatory landscape does have major benefits in making big capital investments associated with large scale facilities.
An interesting bargaining chip will be EPA’s authority to regulate all sources of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Senators attending, especially Murkowski, are highly motivated to block EPA regulatory program. Would the President be willing to foreclose or delay EPA regulations in exchange for a bill?