FACTBOX-Key U.S. states, issues in climate bill fight

Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:33pm EDT

Sept 14 (Reuters) - If a climate change bill makes it to the U.S. Senate floor for a vote this year -- and there are doubts -- its passage will depend partly on conflicting pressures lawmakers face in their home states.

Attracting support from moderate Democrats, along with at least a few Republicans, in some of those states is considered essential.

Here is a look at some of the main issues and players:

MONTANA -- COAL, WIND AND GLACIERS

Montana holds some of the largest coal reserves in the world and is the fifth-largest U.S. producer of the polluting fuel. Climate change legislation aims to phase out coal-burning by utilities and factories, unless cleaner methods are set.

Montana also has potential for wind and other alternative energy production that a climate bill would boost. Meanwhile, the glaciers in Glacier National Park, a major tourist attraction in Montana, have been receding rapidly and could disappear by 2030, according to government estimates.

Against that backdrop, Senator Max Baucus will play a major role in any climate change bill as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The panel has a say over whether trade protections for U.S. industry are inserted into the bill. It also will have input on the sale versus giveaway of carbon pollution permits to companies.

ARKANSAS -- POVERTY AND DUCKS

Switching from cheap fossil fuels to more expensive wind, solar and other alternative energies likely would raise consumer prices.

Senators representing poor states fear such increases, even small ones. So, it is no surprise that Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor worry that a climate change bill could hurt rice and soybean farmers and others in Arkansas, which ranks fourth in the country for poverty.

Lincoln has just become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which also will review the climate bill.

But sometimes it is life's personal experiences that influence a senator's vote.

In testimony to a Senate panel in January 2007, Lincoln noted her past opposition to a climate bill but had come to believe that "we must take action" to control global warming.

One reason: She comes from a family of duck hunters and the birds might stop migrating as far south as Arkansas because of warmer temperatures in some northern states. And that, she said, could have a devastating impact on Arkansas' sportsmen and local economies.

BAKED ALASKA?

In the words of one global warming expert: "Alaska is melting and she knows it." That "she" is Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the senior Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The state is seeing significant loss in mass of two major glaciers and some coastal towns could be overwhelmed by flooding. Ocean acidification related to carbon pollution threatens fish populations.

But Alaska is also one of the leading oil-producing states and Murkowski is not likely to support a Democratic climate change bill. Barring the unexpected, she is more apt to help lead a drive for passage of a narrower environmental bill that encourages the use of more alternative energy without capping carbon emissions.

INDIANA -- COAL AND CORN

In calculating a winning strategy, backers of climate legislation often muse over Indiana, where Democratic Senator Evan Bayh and Republican Senator Richard Lugar are well aware that more than 90 percent of the electricity generated in their state comes from coal.

Agriculture is also an important industry, with Indiana being a major corn and soybean producer. While the farm community fears the climate bill would make for more expensive fuel and fertilizer, in the long-term, some fear global warming will bring more violent storms that could hurt crops.

Lugar, a foreign policy expert, noted in an Aug. 29 speech that global warming "could lead to conflict and instability" in countries suffering worsening drought, famine and disease.

THE STATE OF MCCAIN

Arizona Senator John McCain's upcoming role is a big question mark. As the Republican nominee for president in 2008, he is one of the more influential voices in his party. That is especially true here, as McCain was far ahead of most by calling for action years ago to battle global warming.

But since his failed run for the presidency, McCain has not said much about climate change, other than to criticize the bill passed by the House of Representatives in June for being too complicated and little more than a "grab-bag of special interests for everybody."

McCain, whose state is home to Palo Verde, one of the largest U.S. nuclear power plants, wants a climate bill to include incentives for building more nuclear plants, beyond aid the industry already gets. So far, few Republicans in Congress support climate change legislation, so McCain's stance will be important. (Reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington; Editing by John O'Callaghan)




Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.