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Guest Blog of the Week: Prospects for Climate & Energy Legislation in Late 2010—Part IV

   By Meredith Irvin and Erin Book, Managing Directors, SNR Denton

In a week-long blog series, Meredith Irvin and Erin Book will summarize the main climate and/or energy proposals that are currently being discussed as we head into the final working days of the 111th Congress.

Today’s blog discusses:  Analysis and Outlook

As the number of remaining Congressional days in the 111th Session ticks down, uncertainty surrounding energy and climate legislation continues to prevail.  While the House has passed a comprehensive bill, the Senate has yet to do so.  Further, whatever the Senate passes, it will not match the Waxman-Markey bill that passed through the House.  This means that if/when the Senate does approve legislation, the appropriate negotiations, adjustments and agreements must be made in both houses of Congress in order to send a single bill to the President for signature.

Setting the political considerations aside for a moment, one glaring obstacle that the Senate, and thus Congress as a whole, faces is that of time.  Upon returning from the August recess, Congress has approximately three weeks until they adjourn to return home for elections.  In those few weeks, representatives are expected to complete work on a small business bill, a tax extenders bill, and spending bills.  Along with those high-priority tasks, other items in the queue include campaign finance reform legislation, a food safety bill, and immigration reform.

The slow pace at which Congress has been moving indicates that not all of the agenda items will be resolved prior to the elections.  This leads, then, to the possibility of a lame-duck session at the end of the year and a larger package that contains provisions, such as an RES.  Such legislation may have more luck passing when both Democrats and Republicans feel more comfortable voting for controversial items.  However, should the opportunity arise to vote on an energy and/or climate bill, leadership will face the same challenges that have always plagued energy and climate legislation: regional concerns, the safety of nuclear power, and economic concerns.

Although there is prominent conflict and opposition among members, part of the drive to pass some form of climate legislation is to preempt the EPA from regulating GHG emissions.  Several members have introduced legislation in an attempt to achieve that objective; one proposal has already been unsuccessful, and another may still see action this year.  However, conflicting positions on key issues, an extremely limited time frame for legislative action, and the 2010 midterm elections could prevent legislation from moving forward before the end of 2010 and the 111th Congress.

For additional information on Energy Law, see David J. Muchow and William A. Mogel, Energy Law and Transactions, and the Energy Law page.