Sen. Boxer firms up plans for weekly ‘climate change clearinghouse'

Senate Democrats — and any interested Republicans — will huddle weekly on climate change in the next Congress in an “open forum” to help craft and support legislation, the plan’s architect said.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Tuesday that the “climate change clearinghouse” will also focus on working with the Obama administration and keeping members of abreast of the latest science.

Boxer said she will co-chair the clearinghouse alongside the chairmen of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Boxer first announced the idea earlier in December, and it crystallized further at a meeting Tuesday, she said.

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“We are going to review the latest information, we are going to work on supporting a major bill, we are also going to work on various smaller provisions that we think will move us forward and focus on green jobs, energy efficiency and making sure that we get the carbon out of the air, and work with the administration on some executive stuff,” she said in the Capitol.

“So I think it is going to be a very major and important clearinghouse because as the science comes in, we are going to take a look at that science so that we are all up to date,” Boxer added.

She said it would be an “open forum” that will provide lawmakers a chance to raise topics of interest to them — such as reports from their states and actions in state legislatures — and ask questions too.

“It is a place where people can come to give information, to get information, to ask questions of staff. We will have a good staff presence there,” Boxer said.

Asked about the plan to develop a “major bill,” Boxer said it would address both curbing carbon emissions and ways to “harden our infrastructure to protect our people against extreme weather,” and include energy efficiency provisions and other measures.

But she did not provide details about how provisions to cut emissions might be crafted.

Cap-and-trade plans have collapsed on Capitol Hill, and carbon tax proposals, while generating buzz in policy and media circles, have not gained traction there either.

Boxer said she hopes that some Republicans will take part in the clearinghouse.

Boxer said she has spoken with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) about whether Collins will reintroduce the climate bill that she floated in late 2009 with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

The Collins-Cantwell plan would place a declining limit on the amount of carbon from fossil energy sources in U.S. commerce, and directly refund most revenues from government auctions of emissions permits to consumers in order to offset higher energy costs.

“[Collins] said she was interested. I don’t think they have got it done yet,” Boxer said.