Will Cantwell’s anti-Wall Street climate plan catch on?

A key provision limits the buying and selling of emissions permits to parties – like oil and coal companies – that actually face emissions limits under the plan.

Several swing votes in the climate debate say they’re concerned that leading Democratic cap-and-trade bills will create risky new trading markets – and they haven’t been reassured yet by pledges of strong regulatory oversight. Dorgan has said he backs emissions limits, but doesn’t like the “trade” part of cap-and-trade.

Here’s what Dorgan said when asked about the alternative Cantwell-Collins plan:

“I am working on some other approaches, but I think she has added something important to the debate because everybody talks about cap-and-trade as the only mechanism for limiting carbon. I don’t think that is the only mechanism for limiting carbon,” he said. Dorgan said he is still considering the best method for cutting emissions.

The Cantwell-Collins plan is a so-called cap-and-dividend approach under which the government auctions off emissions permits and returns 75 percent of the proceeds to taxpayers. The rest of the money goes into a new trust fund for low-carbon energy deployment, other emissions reduction projects, and helping workers and industries affected by the climate policy.

Murkowski said Cantwell’s bill injects an important new element into the debate.

“Many, both on our side and on the Democratic side, have expressed real concern about these markets that will be a established through a cap-and-trade regime, just the concern about market manipulation and the speculation and the issues that are associated with that. Senator Cantwell avoids that through her legislation,” she said.

Murkowski, though, has not endorsed the Cantwell-Collins bill either. For one thing, she says climate legislation needs to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under its existing Clean Air Act powers.

She outlined plans Monday to introduce a “resolution of disapproval” that if enacted would overturn EPA’s recent “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten human welfare. The finding is a precursor to planned and potential regulations that limit emissions from power plants, cars, factories and other sources. Murkowski acknowledged that steering her resolution through Congress will be an uphill battle.