October 31, 2009 / 5:21 PM / 10 years ago

Republicans move to delay climate bill progress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - All seven Republicans on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee plan to boycott next week’s work session on a climate-change bill, an aide said on Saturday, in a move aimed at thwarting Democratic efforts to advance the controversial legislation quickly.

The Valero St. Charles oil refinery is seen during a tour of the refinery in Norco, Louisiana August 15, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES)

“Republicans will be forced not to show up” at Tuesday’s work session, said Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Republican senators on the environment panel.

Under committee rules, at least two Republicans are needed for Chairwoman Barbara Boxer to hold the work sessions that would give senators an opportunity to amend the controversial legislation and then vote to approve it in the panel, which is controlled by President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats.

But Republicans are demanding more detailed economic analysis of the bill by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — a task that could take more than a month — before agreeing to participate in the work sessions that are called “mark ups.”

The seven Republicans have not indicated they ultimately would vote for the bill, which Boxer wants to move through her committee before December’s international climate-change summit in Copenhagen.

Even with committee approval of the bill, the full Senate is not expected to vote on it this year. The legislation, as currently written, would have a hard time gaining the support of the 60 senators needed to pass major bills.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration is hoping for more progress by Congress before the Copenhagen summit. In June, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

CARBON POLLUTION

Boxer’s bill, which she wrote with Democratic Senator John Kerry, would require U.S. manufacturers, utilities and refineries to reduce their carbon pollution output 20 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels. That is slightly more ambitious than the House-passed bill.

Most Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the Senate have criticized the emissions-reduction target of the Kerry-Boxer bill.

Kerry already has begun talking to other senators about significant changes to his bill, including expanding U.S. nuclear power generation.

Republicans on the environment committee say the climate-change bill would cause significant job losses by encouraging manufacturers to relocate more of their plants in countries that do not have as strict carbon controls.

They also say it would significantly boost consumer prices as companies are forced to use more expensive alternative fuels — a claim that has not been backed up by some independent analysis or by a preliminary EPA analysis.

“Republicans are insisting on a full EPA analysis before a mark up. We are not opposed to a mark up, only on holding one this rushed,” said a statement by committee Republicans. Full details of the Democratic bill were unveiled only a week ago.

The senior Republican on the committee, Senator James Inhofe, has been an outspoken opponent of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying there is no sound scientific evidence that the world is suffering due to carbon emissions resulting from human activities.

Editing by Will Dunham

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