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Climate bill survives with narrow passage; House accepts plan to limit emissions

For the first time ever, the House on Friday passed a plan to combat climate change, a top priority of President Obama's that Rep. Brian Higgins said could rescue the Western New York economy. The bill's opponents, however, were vehement in their contention that the bill could break the bank of the nation's consumers. ...The bill now moves on to the Senate, where its prospects are murky.

WASHINGTON - For the first time ever, the House on Friday passed a plan to combat climate change, a top priority of President Obama's that Rep. Brian Higgins said could rescue the Western New York economy.

The bill's opponents, however, were vehement in their contention that the bill could break the bank of the nation's consumers.

After days of Democratic arm-twisting - including a 10-minute meeting between Obama and Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning- the plan squeaked by in a 219-212 vote with Massa voting no.

Obama hailed the result, calling the bill's passage "a bold and necessary step."

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where its prospects are murky.

The measure, which seeks to promote cleaner energy, sets the first-ever limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other suspected contributors to global warming, setting up a complex system of pollution allowances that could be bought and sold in hopes of cutting carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Doing that will encourage the growth of "green jobs" - especially in places like Buffalo, which has the infrastructure in place to attract manufacturing as the nation transitions to wind power and other clean-energy sources, said Higgins,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WASHINGTON - For the first time ever, the House on Friday passed a plan to combat climate change, a top priority of President Obama's that Rep. Brian Higgins said could rescue the Western New York economy.

The bill's opponents, however, were vehement in their contention that the bill could break the bank of the nation's consumers.

After days of Democratic arm-twisting - including a 10-minute meeting between Obama and Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning- the plan squeaked by in a 219-212 vote with Massa voting no.

Obama hailed the result, calling the bill's passage "a bold and necessary step."

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where its prospects are murky.

The measure, which seeks to promote cleaner energy, sets the first-ever limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other suspected contributors to global warming, setting up a complex system of pollution allowances that could be bought and sold in hopes of cutting carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Doing that will encourage the growth of "green jobs" - especially in places like Buffalo, which has the infrastructure in place to attract manufacturing as the nation transitions to wind power and other clean-energy sources, said Higgins, D-Buffalo.

"Energy built the economy of Western New York and I believe it can rebuild the manufacturing economy of upstate New York and Western New York in particular," he said. "We're well-positioned to disproportionately benefit from manufacturing in the new economy."

Higgins noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill will cost the average family $175 a year in 2020, which he called "not a bad investment for a better economy."

But he acknowledged that his office had heard from plenty of voters concerned that it could cost them far more - which is just what Republicans argued, and just what put Democrats like Massa on the fence.

"My constituents have told me in overwhelming levels that they wanted me to reject this plan, and as their representative, I take their opinions very seriously," said Massa, a first-term Democrat representing a conservative district. "I was also upset by how rushed this process was."

Massa said Obama pulled him into the White House during Thursday's congressional picnic to lobby for the bill.

"He was very gracious," Massa said. "He made his point on his perception of the legislation and I discussed my concerns. It increased my respect for the president."

While saying he knows global warming is real and must be combated, Massa said he worried about the impact the bill would have on farmers in his district. The American Farm Bureau opposed the measure, saying it would force farmers to comply with tough carbon emissions standards that their competitors in China would escape.

The 1,200-page bill would limit pollution from farms, factories, refineries and power plants that contribute to global warming. Polluters would be issued allowances that could be traded with other companies, in hopes that this "cap and trade" system could create a market-based mechanism for controlling greenhouse gases.

And lawmakers disagreed vehemently over whether it would work.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said the bill would end the nation's long dependence on foreign oil. He called it "the "most important environmental and energy legislation to ever have been considered" by Congress.

"This is revolutionary," Markey said. "This is a moment in history."

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, DFairport, agreed with Higgins that the bill will create new American jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

"By leading in the creation of a clean energy economy, we will lead the 21st century global economy," she said.

But Republicans characterized the bill as a massive energy tax in disguise.

Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence, noted that he asked Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, for numbers on how the bill would protect specific industries - and couldn't get any specific answers.

That left Lee seeing the bill as a very complex way of remaking the energy market through higher costs to the taxpayer.

"Early on it will be government paying this enormous bill through your tax dollars, and then down the road the subsidy will shift," Lee said on the House floor. "The consumers will pay directly to sustain this program through higher, job-killing energy prices."

Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a "defining bill." He called it a "bureaucratic nightmare" that would cost jobs, depress real estate prices and put the government into parts of the economy where it now has no role.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the bill "promises to destroy our standard of living and quality of life with higher energy costs, higher food prices and lost jobs." He called it the "single largest economic threat to our farmers and ranchers in decades."

Such sentiments cast doubt on the bill's prospects in the Senate, where rural-state lawmakers have far more sway than they do in the House.

Even in the House, the Democratic leadership engaged in weeks of horse-trading with members, adding narrow provisions to the bill to protect industries in individual districts in order to win votes.

Some advocates for action on climate change argued that the Democratic compromises had gone too far, but the most prominent advocate - former Vice President Al Gore - said he was happy the bill passed.

"This bill doesn't solve every problem, but passage today means that we build momentum for the debate coming up in the Senate and negotiations for the treaty talks in December which will put in place a global solution to the climate crisis," Gore said.


Source: http://www.buffalonews.com/...

JUN 27 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/20865-climate-bill-survives-with-narrow-passage-house-accepts-plan-to-limit-emissions
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