By Ben Geman - 03/24/10 12:34 AM EDT
* The meeting included liberal and moderate Democrats from all over the country. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) was the only Republican other than Graham (who arrived late).
Here is a list of the Dems: Majority Whip Richard Durbin (Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Warner (Va.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Tom Carper (Del.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Ben Cardin (Md.).
* Lieberman told reporters afterward that the trio wants feedback from their colleagues on the plan, but soon, because they hope to complete a draft bill during the two-week Spring recess that is slated to begin March 29. Kerry noted that “we have some really key meetings in the next few days . . . we have a lot of work to do in the next 48 hours.”
* Lieberman said several low-carbon energy industries have the Senate trio’s back in opposing an “energy only” bill that omits limits on greenhouse gas emissions. (There’s more here on the “energy only” idea that several centrist Democrats are pushing.)
He cited the nuclear, renewable energy, natural gas vehicle, and electric car sectors, “all of whom say you can’t just do a traditional energy bill, you’ve got to price carbon.”
“That’s what is going to drive this change toward energy independence and carbon pollution reduction,” he added.
* One more thing from Lieberman: He rather humorously noted the tough slog an energy and climate bill faces. Asked about reconciling the nascent Senate bill with the sweeping climate and energy bill the House approved last year, he replied: “I have fantasies of reaching that point.”
* The offshore drilling expansion in the Senate plan will gives states discretion about what oil-and-gas leasing could occur in federal waters off their shores, some senators said, although details remain scarce. (Apparently it also dangles a cut of the leasing and royalty revenue before states as a carrot.)
Boxer said the plan includes “giving states the right to object.”
“They give a lot of power to the states on that,” she told reporters after leaving the meeting.
This isn’t a new idea -- various proposals that would allow states to “opt-in” to coastal drilling have been around for years. In 2008, the House approved -- during the feverish election-year fight over record energy prices -- a Democratic bill that relaxed leasing bans in place at the time.
That plan would have allowed drilling greater than 100 miles off state coasts, and within 50-100 miles if state governments agreed to it, while retaining bans on drilling that cover much of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
A far more aggressive House GOP version that included the state revenue-sharing carrot passed the House in 2006. That plan would have similarly lifted bans greater than 100 miles from shore, while also allowing drilling within 50-100 miles unless state government’s formally opposed it, while states could “opt-in” to leasing closer than 50 miles from shore.
Neither passed the Senate, but Democrats under pressure over energy costs reluctantly allowed coastal leasing bans (which had covered most areas outside the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska) to expire in October of 2008. The Interior Department, under President Obama, hasn’t yet said where it may allow expanded offshore oil-and-gas leasing now that th formal bans are gone. But the White House is open to wider leasing as part of a broader energy package.