Guest nostalgia by David Middleton
When writing my last post on Nancy Peolosi’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, I ran across this gem…
7 years later, failed Waxman-Markey bill still makes waves
Amanda Reilly and Kevin Bogardus, E&E News reporters
E&E Daily: Monday, June 27, 2016
It’s been seven years since the House passed major legislation to create a cap-and-trade system for heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, and though that legislative attempt ultimately failed, the bill’s sponsors still say it sowed the seeds for other climate change efforts.
As is well-known, the Waxman-Markey bill was not taken up by the full Senate and never became law. But looking back over the last seven years, the bill’s sponsors and their former congressional aides reminisced with E&E Daily in interviews that the unsuccessful fight was worthwhile and that it has had important repercussions.
Waxman-Markey squeaked by the House seven years ago yesterday on June 26, 2009, by a vote of 219-212.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) never brought the climate legislation, which was championed in the upper chamber by then-Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, to a vote on the floor. Many people close to the legislation have since blamed a number of factors, including Republican opposition and concessions to special interests.
Genesis of executive branch efforts
The collapse of the Waxman-Markey bill in the Senate in 2010 spurred the Obama administration to aggressively use the executive branch to issue regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. EPA issued its final Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants last August and helped negotiate the international climate change deal in Paris last December.
And Markey credited the legislation for setting the stage for the Obama administration’s second-term actions by helping to create necessary alliances.
Clinton vs. Trump
Markey called a potential Hillary Clinton administration paramount to the United States “continuing to be the world leader” on climate change.
Obama promised the globe in the time before the Paris climate negotiations that the United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. In Paris last December, more than 190 nations agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 C. The agreement also commits countries to periodically revisiting their pledged domestic emissions reductions.
Both Waxman and Markey are optimistic that Clinton will become the next president of the United States.
Markey is harshly critical of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inconsistent views on climate change. In 2009, before international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, Trump signed an open letter calling global warming a problem; he’s since claimed that it is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese to hurt American business.
Trump has more recently vowed to undo the Paris climate pledge…
If Trump is elected, Markey said, “every single promise we made to the rest of the world [on climate change] will be broken.”
A campaign issue?
Markey also predicted that climate change would become a more hotly debated issue this presidential election compared with the 2008 race, when both parties’ candidates expressed support for addressing greenhouse gas emissions, and the 2012 race between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) when climate change was largely a nonissue.
“It’s going to become a larger and larger issue that goes right to [Trump’s] credibility as a leader in our country,” Markey said. “So the more he says it, the better for us because suburban swing Republicans and independent voters believe the science of climate change.”
Others have said the same.
“The Clinton campaign is going to push these issues, and their allies in the clean energy business sector are going to push these issues forcefully, especially in swing states,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former climate adviser for the Bill Clinton administration and an energy consultant. “I think they see it as a profound political vulnerability for Trump and the Republicans generally.”
At a recent hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee, Markey said it was ironic that coal-industry allies who are complaining about EPA greenhouse gas regulations’ impact on jobs didn’t support the cap-and-trade legislation.
He complained that the coal industry rejected an offer of billions of dollars for carbon capture and storage technology via the Waxman-Markey bill. Markey argued that the bill attempted to help coal companies stay alive in a way that works “for all the interests.”
“We were trying to give them a bridge to the future,” he said. “Do you think they wish they could go back to 2009 and grab that money?”
Waxman said that he was hopeful that the dynamic would change in Congress to allow for more collaboration between the parties. He predicted a disaster for Republicans at the polls in November.
“I think it’s going to change because I think they’re going to go down the tubes in this next election, and that’s going to be a lesson to them,” Waxman said.
He added: “But I don’t know. I’m giving you my wishful thinking.”
Who thinks the coal industry wishes “they could go back to 2009 and grab that money… for carbon capture and storage technology”?
Let’s see… The Republicans took the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, Trump crushed Clinton electorally in 2016, he killed the Clean Power Plan, he submitted our notice to withdraw from Paris, and he erased just about everyting Obama did with his “pen” and “phone.”
In 2018, the Democrats did manage to retake the House, but with a far smaller majority than they had when they barely passed Waxman-Markey… and set up a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that is “toothless and weaker than the first Climate Select Committee from a decade ago.” However, the Republicans increased their Senate majority in 2018, have confirmed two Supreme Court justices hostile to regulatory overreach and Trump will probably get a third Supreme Court nomination while Republicans control the Senate.
Is there anything Waxman didn’t get wrong? Yes… He got this bit right:
“But I don’t know. I’m giving you my wishful thinking.”
Let’s have three cheers for Henry Waxman!
“We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap..”