Muckraker: Grist on Politics

A vote on who will lead a committee key to writing any climate legislation could come as early as this week. With the vote on his chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce panel looming, Michigan’s John Dingell — a longtime thorn in the side of efforts to require Detroit to focus on fuel efficiency — is trying to whip up more support in his quest to beat back a challenge from California’s Henry Waxman. And in his latest appeal, he’s using his proposed climate bill as collateral.

On Friday, Dingell sent a letter to the 152 members of the House Democratic caucus who signed the statement of principles for climate legislation that Waxman authored with Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.). Dingell suggested that the climate bill he recently put out along with Rick Boucher (D-Va.) closely follows most of the principles.

“I have asked everyone for substantive feedback because when the new Congress convenes in January 2009, I intend to move quickly, especially now that our President-elect shares our commitment to solving this problem,” wrote Dingell. “I think you will find the discussion draft aligns with the principles and goals outlined in your letter.”

Dingell’s bill, however, leaves some policy questions open, including how state emission standards would be handled and how carbon credits would be allocated. It calls for emissions reductions of 80 percent by mid-century, but promises to provide “flexibility to emitters” by including cost-containment mechanisms, allowing polluting entities to meet a certain percentage of their reductions through offsets.

The Waxman-Markey-Inslee principles call for emission reductions of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, for the majority of credits to be auctioned, and for states to be allowed to set higher standards than federal regulations. Neither Dingell nor Boucher were among the 152 Democrats to sign onto those principles.

Here’s the letter Dingell sent to his colleagues on Friday:

November 14, 2008

Dear Colleague:

On October 2, 2008, you joined 151 of our Democratic colleagues in signing a letter to Speaker Pelosi outlining the principles you believe Congress should follow as it develops an economy-wide mandatory program to address global climate change. I applaud your commitment to addressing this critical issue and pledge my cooperation in making sure that the principles outlined in your letter are embodied in any legislation produced by the House.

In fact, I have already started the work of transforming those principles and goals into legislative action.

On October 7, 2008, along with Representative Rick Boucher, I released a 461 page discussion draft of a climate change bill. The draft is the result of more than two years of work by the Committee on Energy and Commerce to develop a comprehensive national program to combat global climate change, the most complex and challenging environmental issue of our time. As we noted at the time of the draft’s release, politically, scientifically, legally, and morally, the question has been settled.

We released the discussion draft to give all interested parties and stakeholders adequate time to review it and comment on its specifics. I have asked everyone for substantive feedback because when the new Congress convenes in January 2009, I intend to move quickly, especially now that our President-elect shares our commitment to solving this problem.

I think you will find the discussion draft aligns with the principles and goals outlined in your letter. To that end, I have attached an analysis which compares the principles of your letter with the substance of the discussion draft. I hope you will take the time to review this document and provide me with your thoughts. I look forward to working with you in the coming months, and please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if you have questions.

Sincerely,

JOHN D. DINGELL

CHAIRMAN