Reid's Decision Leaves Climate Action to EPA and States for Now

July 23, 2010

Citing a lack of bipartisan support Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Thursday that upcoming energy legislation won’t include a cap on carbon emissions or a renewable energy standard. Instead, the Senate will move forward on scaled-back legislation that promotes natural-gas vehicles, improves energy efficiency in houses and businesses, and responds to the Gulf oil spill.

The announcement leaves states and the EPA to lead efforts to reduce the greenhouse gases that result in climate change – at least for now.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire expressed her disappointment Thursday with the federal government’s inaction, but pledged that Washington and other states would move ahead.

“Despite the lack of federal action, Washington state will continue to move forward with policies aimed at reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions while growing much-needed jobs to aid in our economic recovery. Our state has proven that our businesses want to be part of this emerging green-energy economy. A recent study found nearly 100,000 green jobs existed in our state in 2009, a significant increase from the year before. At the same time, we’re showing that implementing energy efficiencies saves consumers and taxpayers valuable dollars.”

A glimmer of hope for future federal action emerged Thursday with reports of a potential deal between electric power companies and environmental groups, which could pave the way for an electricity-only cap down the road. Senators Kerry and Lieberman have suggested a window of opportunity for climate legislation in the fall, but political challenges will remain.

In spite of the lack of movement on comprehensive federal climate legislation, some in Congress are likely to continue their push to delay EPA efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under existing authority. Reid had originally planned to allow a vote this year on a two-year postponement of EPA action sponsored by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). It is unclear if Reid’s announcement Thursday to narrow legislative debate on climate and energy will change that plan.

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