As reported previously, Congress has devoted much of the spring to hearings on climate change legislation. One of the most active leaders in the debate, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality) has made the point that climate change and energy policy are two separate and linked issues. Rep. Boucher has argued to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that a greenhouse gas (GHG) regulatory program would be a difficult piece of legislation to develop and move through the Congress in a short amount of time. He has convinced the Speaker that the House should focus first on several energy policy initiatives and then move to debate on a GHG “cap-and-trade” bill this fall. We can expect a new energy bill to be marked-up in the House Resources Committee during the last week of May; that bill will have a heavy emphasis on coal (due to the Committee Chairman, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia) and perhaps some R&D issues.
The Senate has adopted a similar approach. For example, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved legislation on May 2 that focuses on energy efficiency and research. The bill generally does not deal with natural gas issues, but it does encourage state PUCs to “de-couple” LDC rates from sales volumes in order to create a financial incentive for LDCs to promote efficiency and conservation. Work on actual climate change legislation is still months away.