Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) plans to wait until the week of Aug. 3 to mark up climate change legislation in order to have a series of hearings on the issue and the bill first, she said today.

This timetable, reported late last week in E&E News PM (subs. req’d), is faster than many had imagined.  It would create the possibility of the full Senate considering the bill before Copenhagen in December – “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he wants to hold a floor debate in the fall on the climate and energy package” – though I still think it unlikely the final bill ends up on Obama’s desk this year.

On Thursday, E&E News (subs. req’d) reported:

Two other Democratic members of the committee – Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – endorsed the hoped-for timeline. “We would like to do it before the August recess, that is correct,” Klobuchar said.

Still, Boxer’s timing remains a tad uncertain:

“That’s our hope,” Boxer told reporters. “Again, as I said, anything can change, but that’s what we hope for now.”

Boxer yesterday acknowledged that she would try to move cap-and-trade legislation before the August recess, but left it unclear if that meant in July or the week of Aug. 3, when the Senate is scheduled to be in session. Today, Boxer said she has reserved July for public hearings on climate issues. “To bring us up to speed,” she said. “And then also as soon as we write the bill, [hearings] on the bill that we write.”

It looks like Boxer will use Waxman-Markey as a starting point, but modify/improve it:

Boxer said the cap-and-trade plan her committee approved in December 2007 – which died on the Senate floor last summer – was the “basis” for the House bill authored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) “Now we are taking their bill and we will work off that bill,” she said.

“I think you will see some differences, but it is basically similar,” she added. “There will be some tweaks, there will be some add-ons.” Boxer noted that she has been working with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on agriculture issues. “She has come up with some terrific ideas on offsets,” Boxer said.

I can’t wait to see those terrific ideas!  Let’s hope one of them is a sunset clause (see “The one simple change that could vastly improve Waxman-Markey“).

Boxer hinted her bill might go back to the original target in the first Waxman-Markey draft:

Asked whether her plan would mirror the Waxman bill’s emissions targets, Boxer said it may differ when it comes to short-term reductions. “You might see a little bit of a stronger bill coming out of our committee, but I don’t know, we have not made a decision,” she said. Waxman and Markey had originally sought a 20 percent reduction by 2020 but reduced the level during negotiations with moderate Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

I’ve heard the same thing from staff.  Let’s hope Boxer screws her courage to the sticking place on this one:  20 in 2020!

Boxer predicted momentum no matter how large the margin from the House floor vote – just so long as it passes. “Well, the more, the better,” she said. “But look, if it passes, it passes. It’s all good.”

And what are the chances of final passage in the full Senate?

Looking forward, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said he would give global warming legislation “50-50 or better odds” of passing the Senate this year. “There’s a lot of momentum over here to work on this,” Udall said. “I think we’ve been tactically smart, letting the House go first. I think if they can find the sweet spot, it’s a very similar sweet spot over here. Stay tuned.”

Asked if 60 votes was possible, Udall replied, “I do, I think it’s probably a tight 60 votes, but I think it’s possible.”

l think the odds are much better than 50-50 if this story is true – Nancy Sutley: Obama to stake political prestige on passing US climate bill – and especially if this story pans out, “Exclusive: Have China and the U.S. been holding secret talks aimed at a climate deal this fall?