george voinovichGeorge Voinovich

At a hearing on the Kerry-Boxer climate bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Nov. 3, Sen. George Voinovich was the only Republican to show up (for a whole 15 minutes!). He explained that Republicans were boycotting the proceedings because they wanted to wait until the EPA completed a more thorough economic analysis of the bill.  He insisted that he did “want to work on a bipartisan basis” and that requesting further EPA analysis was “not a stalling tactic.”

Voinovich has been arguing for further economic analysis ever since the House passed its version of a climate bill, Waxman-Markey, this summer.  He made the point in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson [PDF] in July. When the Kerry-Boxer bill was unveiled in late September, he called for “time [to be] allowed for a thorough vetting of what has been proposed.”  And in late October, in remarks to the Environment and Public Works Committee [PDF], Voinovich stressed the importance of dealing with climate change, but again argued that more in-depth economic analysis was essential: “Climate change is a serious and complex issue that deserves our full attention. I acknowledge [the] commitment to timely legislation, but the abbreviated process by which this legislation is moving is not conducive to thoughtful, bipartisan climate change legislation.” He ended his statement by warning against attempting “to jam down this legislation” through the Senate: “Wouldn’t it be smarter to take our time and do it right?”

The senator also has concerns about particular provisions in the bill.  “One of my problems with this legislation is that the caps are unrealistic in terms of the availability of technology,” he said. And Voinovich argues that forced emissions reductions would result in significant transfers of wealth from fossil fuel-dependent regions of the country to areas that are less reliant on coal: “California is going to make out like a bandit with this legislation. To jam this thing through here is not going to be good and America is going to be very, very upset about it.”

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Here’s more on Voinovich and climate, as written by Kate Sheppard on July 30, 2009:

Sen. George Voinovich has acknowledged the problem of global warming, but wants to take a cautious approach in addressing it. He sponsored a weak climate bill last year that never got any traction.

He is retiring when his term ends in 2010, so he has leeway to support climate legislation without fear of political repercussion.

At the same time, Voinovich is a big supporter of fossil fuels. Last year, he told Grist that the U.S. should “get every drop” of oil out of U.S. soil.

Voinovich doesn’t like the climate bill that passed the House in June. “In my view, the Waxman-Markey bill fails on all accounts,” he said at a panel on the future of coal that he hosted with Democratic Sen. Tom Carper (Del.).

“You’ve got a bill that is 1,200 pages, and there is just a lot of crap in there,” he said. (Actually the final version came in at more than 1,400 pages.) He criticized the near-term emission-reduction targets in the bill, saying that 17 percent by 2020 is “too high for us.” He’s also worried that the bill would allow carbon offsets to be purchased from foreign sources, arguing that could result in more U.S. cash going to China. “With modest $15 per ton, we could send $15 billion to China,” he said.

He stalled confirmation of the EPA’s deputy administrator while demanding that the agency provide a new analysis of the House climate bill that was more to his liking.

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Voinovich has outlined his own priorities for a climate bill, including a cost-containment mechanism (also known as a “safety valve” or “off-ramp”), a requirement for international action, and major funding for carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology.

He seems willing to work on passing a climate bill this year. “There is a lot of work yet to be done; but from my perspective, it’s still open,” Voinovich said. “I’m leaving the Senate at the end of next year and I think there is the possibility in getting something done that’s meaningful.”

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