Emerging energy and climate bill could undercut Bingaman

Bingaman supports offshore drilling but has long opposed “revenue sharing” for coastal states. He argues it deprives the Treasury of a large source of funds, and that development of resources in federal waters should be used for programs that benefit all states.

But keeping revenue sharing out of the mix could be a tall order if the bill expands offshore leasing, because the floodgates were opened four years ago.

A 2006 law that expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by millions of acres handed four states – Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama – a nice 37.5 percent share of revenue from new development off their shores, a bounty that is expected to reach well into the billions of dollars.

Bingaman was actually an original sponsor of the 2006 Gulf drilling bill, but the version that went through the energy committee didn’t include revenue sharing.

But his co-sponsor – former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who chaired the committee at the time – cut a separate deal on revenue sharing with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and other Gulf lawmakers that enabled floor passage. Bingaman voted against it.

Another looming problem for Bingaman: Graham’s push to alter the renewable electricity mandate that Bingaman has long championed.

A broad energy bill that Bingaman’s committee approved in June would create a renewable electricity standard, which requires utilities to supply escalating percentages of their power from sources like wind and solar energy.

But Graham wants a broader “clean” energy standard that would also give credit to new nuclear power generation and power from coal plants that trap and store carbon dioxide emissions. Various ideas for allowing non-renewable fuels into a utility mandate have been around for years, and Bingaman has long maintained that such a policy should be limited to renewables. He recently reaffirmed that view through a spokesman.

Reuters confirmed Friday that the draft Senate climate bill is expected to include the broader “clean” standard. Their piece said the measure includes:

The establishment of a "clean energy standard" that would expand a Senate Energy Committee "renewable energy standard" to allow more fuels to participate, including nuclear. The committee plan focuses on wind, solar and other renewable sources. While it's nearly emissions-free, nuclear is technically not a renewable power source.

So, it looks like Bingaman will have some battles on his hands if the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman effort moves ahead. Of course, the same fights could emerge this year even if the Senate trio’s effort sputters.

Democratic leaders might take the energy bill that Bingaman’s committee approved last June to the floor. That would give advocates of a broader utility energy mandate a chance to alter the renewables provision.

That bill addresses offshore drilling too – it shrinks the no-drilling buffer in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida's shores. In June the committee turned back Landrieu's effort to expand revenue sharing to Alaska and states that might have offshore drilling it the future.

Landrieu, at the time, promised to launch another effort on the Senate floor. Stay tuned.