W&M Chairman Charlie Rangel: “Whether you call it a tax, everyone agrees that it’s going to increase the cost to the consumer. At the end of the day … if there’s nothing there to repay [consumers] for their financial expenditures, it might be difficult to fight Republicans who call this a tax.”
House Energy and Commerce Democratic leaders today unveiled more details of a climate and energy strategy heading into a markup next week, but they still have to work out concerns that some fellow Democrats have about how the cap-and-trade program would affect businesses. “There [are] some issues left,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman said today. “Not the big picture.” Waxman received a key endorsement today from Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., one of the coal industry’s main allies in Congress and a lead negotiator for many moderate committee Democrats on cap-and-trade details.
Although he still has concerns, Boucher said he will vote “yes” next week and is encouraging others on the committee to do so.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said he would meet with Waxman today to discuss how the bill can better serve low-income families. After taking into account Waxman’s proposal to give away some carbon credits to firms and set aside funds to make sure the bill is budget neutral, it would provide only $18 billion annually in cap-and-trade revenue, Butterfield said. He called the sum “woefully inadequate to provide the safety net” for such families. Another problem is some of that revenue would likely be set aside to help meet President Obama’s green-jobs initiative and perhaps other targeted programs. Waxman said there will be funding for that initiative in the bill, but he cautioned “we may not get as much as we’d like.”
Butterfield welcomed Waxman’s idea of providing emission credits to local electricity-distribution companies, which he said will cut utility bills.
But that does not affect other consumer costs that would rise because of a cap-and-trade program, he added. Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, who has been in talks with Butterfield, expressed similar concern. “Whether you call it a tax, everyone agrees that it’s going to increase the cost to the consumer,” said Rangel. “At the end of the day … if there’s nothing there to repay [consumers] for their financial expenditures, it might be difficult to fight Republicans who call this a tax.” But Rangel said he and Waxman are still working out how cap-and-trade revenue would be distributed.
Meanwhile, Reps. Gene Green, D-Texas, and Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, are talking to Waxman about giving upward of 5 percent of total emissions credits to the refining industry. Green said there was no update and that staff was still talking. Gonzalez said he conferred today with petroleum industry representatives and said he agrees with some of their doubts. “But that’s the legislative process,” he said. There are also still talks about expanding the type of biomass that can be used to meet a renewable electricity mandate, Waxman said. Panel Republicans continue to remain staunchly opposed to the Waxman bill. Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton and other panel Republicans will unveil an alternative to Waxman’s plan this afternoon. Their plan would exempt operating coal facilities from new regulations, allocate $15 billion for a nuclear waste recycling facility and authorize exploration of Arctic and offshore oil sources.