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February 25, 2010
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- Defying a blizzard to fight for climate and clean energy policy
- E2 NorCal meetings focus on implementation challenges
- E2 sponsors California legislation SB 26
- Advocacy on an improved RPS and more
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E2 Defies a Blizzard to Fight for Climate and Clean Energy Policy

Also: See a blog about this trip by E2 Co-founder Nicole Lederer at The Energy Collective

 Photo id
 From left: E2 Co-founder Nicole Lederer with E2 members Stephen Cowell, Mark Liffmann, John Cheney, Gordon Davidson and Jon Foster. Click for larger version. (Photo credit: Steven Bognar)
In the face of flight and train cancellations and warnings of a total shut down of the eastern seaboard, eight members of our most recent E2 federal advocacy delegation fought their way into Washington DC during the blizzard of the century last week and showed true commitment to keep their appointments with Senate and Administration leaders. They arrived at a critical moment for federal carbon and clean energy policy, which is hanging in the balance. E2's message that a cap and price on carbon is a critical economic stimulus has never been timelier, as Congress is now highly focused on an economic recovery and jobs.

There was a silver lining to the bad weather: the storm provided a pause in Capitol Hill schedules that turned in to an opportunity for us. From February 9-11 we were virtually the only non-government people on Capitol Hill. As a result we were able to conduct extended meetings throughout the blizzard with key players on carbon policy. Even Senators with whom we did not have prior appointments agreed to meet with us, if for no other reason than that they couldn't believe we were there!

The Delegation and Our Mission

The E2 delegation represented a spectrum of businesses, both in and outside of the clean technology industry: large and distributed scale renewable energy project builders, energy storage technology companies, biofuels companies, energy efficiency retrofitting contractors, cleantech investors, and executives of other companies in key states that are impacted by the emerging clean energy economy. Together, the delegates are engaged in business activities in 37 states and multiple countries.

Photo id 
From left: Felicia Marcus, NRDC Western Director; E2 members Gordon Davidson, David Moyar, Stephen Cowell, Bob Epstein, Mark Liffmann; Diane Doucette, E2 Climate Campaign Director; E2 members Jon Foster, David O'Leary, Nicole Lederer, John Cheney; and E2 staffers Christine Luong and Tommy Hayes. Click for larger version. 
Our mission was to reaffirm that a cap and price on carbon are essential to create American jobs, grow our economy and spur the innovations and products that will keep the U.S. competitive in the global economy. (Our position was summarized in the E2 Action Alert that many of you signed in the week before the trip.) Each of the delegates developed compelling talking points in support of our agenda from their own business perspectives. As a result we were able to highlight the particular expertise of our delegates and provide support for carbon policy from a broad base of American businesses poised for growth.

State of Play for Carbon Policy in the Senate

There was strong momentum for a climate and clean energy bill in the Senate last fall, after the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Boxer (D-CA). Subsequently Senators John Kerry (D-MA, and Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) committed to produce a tri-partisan bill based on the carbon reduction targets of the EPW bill, but including provisions that would increase the chances of getting support for the bill from energy producing states. The provisions under discussion include increased domestic oil production, increased funding for CCS technology and deployment, and increased funding for new nuclear deployment, along with incentives for energy efficiency and low carbon renewable energy development.

The emerging debate in the Senate on carbon reduction policy now is focusing on the mechanism for achieving emission reductions. Whereas the Kerry/Graham/Lieberman effort is based on a cap-and-trade model, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have teamed up to write a bill based on a significantly different model which they call Cap and Dividend. In this model 75% of proceeds from a carbon auction are returned as dividends to citizens, while 25% is dedicated to the development and deployment of clean energy technologies.

While these two models are being debated, there are still those in the Senate who would prefer a carbon tax as the vehicle for carbon reductions, as well as many who view the entire concept of limiting carbon emissions as a danger to our fragile economy. Another significant contingent of the Senate prefers to pass an energy bill devoid of carbon reduction provisions as a politically feasible step toward deploying clean energy technologies. E2 argued that an energy bill alone will lack the critical long-term market signal provided by a cap and price on carbon emissions to drive investment in new energy technologies. Without this market signal, the U.S. will be at a significant disadvantage in commercializing clean energy products for domestic deployment and for export.

E2's message to all of these Senators was straightforward: Whatever the mechanism, the growth and vigor of the American economy depend on our making a national commitment to a clean low-carbon energy future.

Will the Next Move come from Congress or the Administration?

 “The trip was a wonderful opportunity to work with other E2 members to push for meaningful climate legislation this year. It was gratifying to see how well regarded E2 is on the Hill. The prevailing sentiment on Capitol Hill, in the wake of partisan battles over health care, is to do less, not more, on climate legislation. At the same time, the high national unemployment rate is making increasing jobs a key focus area for Congress. Given that environment, E2’s message that strong climate legislation will help create green jobs in America – jobs that will otherwise be created overseas – is critically important to the climate legislation debate. The blizzard certainly added a twist to the trip – it’s not often you can find yourself completely alone in the hallways of Senate office buildings during a weekday!”
  - Jon Foster (Palo Alto, CA)
While key Senators have continued to focus on a climate and clean energy bill, Senate leadership has made it clear that the priorities are a jobs bill and a healthcare bill. Our E2 delegation made a strong argument that carbon policy is a highly effective component of a jobs bill. Depending on the timing of these priorities, the legislative calendar and the upcoming election season, carbon policy could slip through the cracks as a casualty of competing agendas. The primary insurance against that happening is the announcement by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson of the Agency's intention to move forward on the Supreme Court-endorsed mandate to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant. Under the Supreme Court decision, carbon emissions were found to be an endangerment to human health and welfare, and thus fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA, along with other air pollutants.

While unequivocally asserting the Agency's authority to regulate carbon emissions, Administrator Jackson has sought to reassure the business community that EPA plans to issue regulations that will apply only to major emitters, such as power plants and industrial facilities, not small businesses. Nevertheless, the EPA's authority in this arena is a major concern to some in Congress. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) submitted an amendment to a budget bill seeking to strip EPA of this authority. E2 has responded with letters to both Houses urging members not to sign on to the Murkowski amendment (see E2's letter to the Senate) or a companion bill in the House (see E2's letter to the House). A move by Congress to strip the EPA of authority to regulate carbon emissions would be exactly the wrong market signal to American business.

Both Congress and the Administration have signaled a strong preference to have carbon policy come from the legislative rather than regulatory process. But the EPA's authority to move forward with carbon regulation remains a critical incentive to Congress to act in a timely manner on this issue.

Our Meetings

We met with the following Senate and Administration offices:

Evan Bayh (D - IN) (staff)Lisa Jackson
Mark Begich (D - AK) (staff)U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Michael Bennet (D - CO) (staff) 
Barbara Boxer (D - CA) (staff)Cathy Zoi
Maria Cantwell (D - WA)U.S. Department of Energy (staff)
Susan Collins (R - ME) (staff) 
Amy Klobuchar (D - MN) (staff) 
Debbie A. Stabenow (D - MI) 
Jon Tester (D - MT) 
Mark Udall (D - CO) 
George Voinovich (R - OH) 
Ron Wyden (D - OR) 

Discussions in these meetings ranged from protecting American manufacturing jobs, to whether China would engage adequately on carbon emission reductions, to interest in bringing new low carbon jobs to states with high unemployment. We repeatedly heard about the intransigence and gridlock in the Senate and the difficulty in reaching 60 votes to pass any legislation.

In addition to the Senate meetings, E2 spoke with EPA Administrator Jackson to promote our members as ideal messengers in support of the Administration's clean energy agenda. The Administrator indicated her intention to draw on E2's business expertise on chemical policy reform and water quality as well as climate and clean energy issues.

What's Next

Time is of the essence if we're going to get a carbon bill passed this year. We plan to keep up the pressure on Congress not to turn its back on carbon policy because of the current contentious political atmosphere, or because of an inability to agree on the economic mechanism for achieving emission reductions. The strongest argument we have, and one that E2 is uniquely well qualified to deliver, is that the best way forward to an economic recovery, job creation and an improved balance of trade is a national commitment to a low carbon clean energy future. Our greatest leverage for a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill is the fact that low carbon jobs are beginning to appear in states all across the country, creating a "bubble up" demand for action from Congress. This phenomenon is now being illustrated by a documentary film crew working with the E2 DC delegation and a number of other E2 members with businesses in key states.

We are planning our next delegation trip to DC and seeking E2 delegates who currently do business, or have expansion plans or supply chain relationships in the following states: Massachusetts, Virginia, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, Louisiana and Michigan.

Thanks to the intrepid E2 delegates of February 2010, and to the E2 and NRDC DC staff who worked long hours to support this trip.

 




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