House panel to approve climate change bill: Reuters poll

The setting sun casts an orange glow on passing clouds over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington September 19, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have enough votes to approve historic legislation to cap and reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Reuters survey of specific lawmakers on the panel.

The legislation, which Democratic leaders plan to have the committee vote on this week, would slash greenhouse gases that cause global warming by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The heart of the legislation is a “cap and trade” system that would gradually reduce the amount of greenhouse gases from utilities, steelmakers, oil refineries and other companies by requiring them to have permits to spew their emissions.

Of the 59 members on the House committee, Reuters found that 30 lawmakers, all of them Democrats, would definitely vote “yes” or were likely to support the bill. The survey results were based on comments from the lawmakers themselves or from congressional staff on where their bosses stand on the bill.

There are 36 Democrats and 23 Republicans on the committee.

The panel’s top Republican, Representative Joe Barton, has implied that every Republican member of the committee would vote against the bill. But at least one, Mary Bono Mack of California, might support the bill. She is a “potential yes and a potential no,” according to an aide. Reuters did not survey other Republican members of the committee.

Six committee Democrats in the Reuters survey expressed concerns about the bill, showed little support for the measure or were still undecided. They were: John Barrow of Georgia, Eliot Engel of New York, Jim Matheson of Utah, Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Zack Space of Ohio.

Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Jasmin Melvin, Deborah Zabarenko and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Andrea Ricci