Max Baucus wrangles a sweet deal for Montana rural co-ops in the Lieberman-Warner bill
One bit of shenanigans that went on in the backroom negotiations over Lieberman-Warner was the effort by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to exempt his state’s rural electricity cooperatives from the bill’s tough emission reduction targets. Now the Great Falls Tribune has picked up the story:
Montana’s senior senator inserted a provision into a climate change bill pending in Congress that would give the rural electric co-ops in his state until 2035 to fully curtail their greenhouse gas emissions. The bill requires utility companies in other states to comply by 2012.
Baucus, a moderate Democrat who represents a major coal-producing state, gave the bill, America’s Climate Security Act, a major boost when he recently announced he would support it. Baucus was the swing vote that allowed the bill to pass a key subcommittee last week. His support of the legislation also is critical to its final passage.
Under the plan, co-ops in Montana and Virginia, the home state of one of the bill’s two sponsors, Republican Sen. John Warner, would get extra emission allowances.
Critics say the Baucus exemption is unfair because the bill would set up a pilot project that would benefit rural electric co-ops in only two states — Montana and Virginia. Rural co-ops are nonprofit companies that operate in 45 other states, serving 12 percent of the nation’s electric consumers, who live in 75 percent of the country’s land mass.
[Clean Air Watch’s Frank] O’Donnell estimated that the additional allowances for both Montana and Virginia would be worth about $4.2 billion on the open market over two decades.
This bit is particularly … piquant:
Montana Electric Cooperatives Association CEO David Wheelihan said his group did not ask for the extra allowances — but it appreciates Baucus’ efforts.
I bet it does.