U.S. Senate leader tries to quell climate bill fears

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reached out to industrial-state lawmakers on Tuesday to ease concerns about proposed measures to cut climate-warming carbon emissions.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington February 3, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

Reid told reporters on Wednesday that the 10 Democratic senators he met with from states heavily dependent on coal were not opposed to a global-warming bill.

But states like Ohio, Michigan and Indiana want assurances that their economies will not suffer from new environmental requirements.

Draft legislation unveiled Tuesday by key Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives proposes a “cap and trade” system limiting carbon emissions and requiring industries to obtain permits for every ton of carbon they emit. Companies that cut their emissions could sell their unused permits.

Lawmakers from heavy manufacturing states and states dependent on coal mining worry about the cost this system could add to companies’ bottom lines.

They have expressed concern that operating under a cap and trade system could lead to further job losses if companies are forced to tackle an additional expense during economically turbulent times.

Reid said he wants to work with these senators to create legislation that would benefit everyone.

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“We’re going to have to make sure that what we do doesn’t devastate an economy,” Reid said. “We can do that in many different ways.”

Reid also addressed concerns that the House’s bill on climate change would be “some wild bill” due to the influence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Henry Waxman, who both represent California.

California is known for strict environmental laws that often go beyond standards set by federal mandates.

“I think we’re going to be surprised at how moderate the bill will come from the House -- moderate but good,” Reid said.

Reid said he planned to combine climate change legislation with other energy measures, including establishing a renewable portfolio standard and modernizing the electricity grid, in a large energy package.

He said he hopes efforts by him and President Barack Obama to reach out to Republicans will help push through a bill to combat global warming.

Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; editing by Jim Marshall