Waxman to push carbon limits in conference if Senate falls short

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he would “absolutely” seek to keep greenhouse gas limits alive in a House-Senate conference if the Senate approves energy legislation this summer that omits carbon provisions.

“It would be open in conference to consider because our bill has it,” Waxman told The Hill Wednesday.

Waxman authored a sweeping climate and energy bill that the House narrowly approved last year that merges an “economy-wide” cap-and-trade system with other provisions to boost alternative energy and energy efficiency.

Greenhouse gas caps face large hurdles in the Senate, and may be left on the cutting-room floor when the Senate debates an energy package that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to bring up next month.

But Waxman, an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said the climate issue would remain alive in conference, noting he would “absolutely” press for measures that create a cost for emitting greenhouse gases.

Limiting emissions from power plants, factories, refineries and other sectors is a top priority for environmentalists and many liberal Democrats — including Pelosi. But emissions caps face resistance among many Republicans and some centrist Democrats, which means that advocates will have a difficult time corralling 60 Senate votes.

“I would hope we can put a price on carbon,” Waxman said, arguing it would give the private sector the “right market signal” to develop low-emissions technologies. “I would hope they would have it in the Senate bill, and I would encourage them to adopt it, either there or in conference,” Waxman said.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have authored a broad climate and energy bill that would apply carbon limits across several economic sectors. But the two senators, seeking to keep emissions measures in play as the Senate debate nears, said Tuesday they’re willing to scale back the reach of their plan.

One option under consideration among lawmakers is a narrowed climate bill that would apply only to electric power plants, but it remains unclear if such a plan can gain more traction than the broader approach.