Kerry says three major oil companies to back Senate climate plan

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) expects that a powerful electric utility trade group and three major oil companies will support the climate and energy bill he and two colleagues will unveil Monday, according to a source on a conference call Kerry held for business leaders Thursday evening.

Buy-in from the major oil companies and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) would provide an important political boost to the Senate climate effort, which faces uncertain prospects.

A separate source familiar with EEI’s plans cautioned that the group needs to see the text before endorsing the measure, but that EEI officials plan to attend the bill’s unveiling Monday and support its advancement.

Kerry — who is crafting the measure with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — spoke Thursday evening to representatives from We Can Lead, a coalition of companies that is pressing for climate legislation.

The oil companies that will back the plan are BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell, according to The Washington Post.

The oil-and-gas industry strongly opposed the sweeping climate bill the House approved last year, alleging it would harm refiners and lacked incentives for natural gas.

The source on the call said Kerry outlined a bill that includes $10 billion in support for “clean coal” technologies. Kerry said oil companies would purchase emissions allowances to cover transportation sector pollution, said another source who also listened to the call.

The measure is also expected to include federal loan guarantees for the construction of 12 nuclear power plants; a four-year delay before manufacturing plants are brought under the bill’s emissions cap; and limits, called a “price collar,” on the cost of emissions allowances.

The plan would also steer roughly two-thirds of the revenues from the federal sale of pollution permits to utilities back to consumers, funneled through their local utilities. But it is not clear whether this would be through reduced power bills or direct payments.

Sources familiar with the briefing also said the measure would pre-empt state and regional greenhouse gas rules, which is a key goal for a variety of industry groups but has been strongly attacked by environmentalists and state officials. The bill would also block Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases under its current Clean Air Act powers, one source said.

Overall, the bill aims to cut nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. 

This story was updated at 6:14 p.m.

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