Bingaman crafting utility-only climate plan

Bingaman said Monday that he is working on a plan that has “some significant differences” from the utility portion of a much broader climate bill crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring a broad energy package to the floor next month, and environmentalists and many Democrats are struggling to keep climate provisions in the mix despite large hurdles.

Bingaman said he is not working with Reid on the utility proposal, and has not been asked by Reid to craft a plan. Bingaman said Monday that he is “not taking a lead” on the overall Senate climate strategy.

Bingaman said he has not decided whether to introduce his evolving emissions plan. “It would depend on how much support there would be for that,” he told reporters in the Capitol. “I don’t want to just introduce bills in order to add to the list of bills that have been introduced.”

He said he has talked to “various senators” about it, including Republicans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has also promoted a utility-only carbon pricing plan, said Monday he has not talked to Bingaman about the idea.

Graham months ago worked with Kerry and Lieberman on a sweeping climate change and energy production plan but then abandoned the effort, initially over the unrelated issue of immigration reform.

Graham has since completely divorced himself from a draft Kerry-Lieberman proposal that applies greenhouse gas limits to power plants, manufacturers and transportation fuels.

He is now advocating a utility-only approach, and has asked electric power companies to draft a proposal. Graham predicted that lawmakers would ultimately settle on a utility-only plan rather than legislation that imposes emissions limits on a broader swath of the economy.

“Can we do it this year, can we do it next year? I don’t know but I think that’s where you’re going to wind up,” Graham said. 

—Ben Geman contributed.

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