The Carbon NineNine House Democrats who could determine the fate of the American Clean Energy & Security Act: (rear, from left) Baron Hill, Earl Pomeroy, Artur Davis, Rick Boucher; (front, from left) Mike Ross, Charlie Melancon, Jason Altmire, John Tanner, and Gene Taylor.Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / GristOf the 31 lawmakers who form the statistical center of the House on climate change (according to research by two economists), only eight have given clear indication that they will vote for the Waxman-Markey energy bill. And that’s assuming House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) gets his committee members to follow his lead in supporting the bill, as he says they will.

Another eight lawmakers appear set on opposing the bill, while the remaining 15 have not publicly indicated how they are leaning. If and when Waxman-Markey receives a vote (currently expected this Friday), this group could well determine whether the bill passes.

Grist extracted the “Carbon Nine” from the novel ranking system of economists Mathew Kahn and Michael Cragg, whose methodology (explained here) combined environmental voting records with the income levels, ideology, and carbon intensity of Congressional districts to rank all 435 House members from “brown” to “green.” This produced a nine-way tie in the center, with 22 others who fit very near to the center.

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The 31 are almost entirely from rural districts. They are all Democrats, all men, and 23 belong to the Blue Dog Coalition that promotes fiscal conservatism. The six on Peterson’s Ag committee form a bloc of support that could be crucial for the bill’s passage.

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Climate CitizensTrack the debate and more >>>And even though the Waxman-Markey bill is expected to receive a vote this Friday, many of the 31 lawmakers in this likely “swing” group are reluctant to reveal their positions on the bill. A search of their recent press statements turns up surprisingly little information about their opinions. (Then again, that could reveal just as much about the mainstream media’s level of interest in the energy bill.) The congressional Web sites of the 31 yield even less insight into their positions.

Have a look at the rundown below. And if you find something I missed, or have heard from one of these pols or their staffs, leave a comment at the bottom.


  • Rick Boucher (Virginia 9th): Voted for the bill in committee and published an op-ed on Monday calling its passage “essential.”
  • Jim Costa (California 20th): Said in early May he believes the bill should pass.
  • Henry Cuellar (Texas 28th): No indication, but being an Ag committee member, committee Chairman Peterson claims to have his support.
  • Bart Gordon (Tennessee 6th): Voted for it in committee and expected support would grow among Democrats.
  • Jim Marshall (Georgia 8th): No indication, but being an Ag committee member, committee Chairman Peterson claims to have his support.
  • Mike McIntyre (North Carolina 7th): No indication, but being an Ag committee member, committee Chairman Peterson claims to have his support.
  • Collin Peterson (Minnesota 7th): Supports and claims 26 Democrats on Agriculture Committee will follow his lead.
  • Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota): An Agriculture Committee member, he predicted bill would die under Peterson’s watch, but will likely follow Peterson in supporting it.
  • Baron Hill (Indiana 9th): Voted for it in committee and seems to still support. Called for nuclear energy and a “Buy American” provision for offsets to be added to the plan.


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Leans against

  • Charlie Melancon (Louisiana 3rd): Voted against it in committee and seems to remain opposed, concerned that it would hurt his district’s offshore gas and oil industry.


Vanessa Kerr and Claire Thompson contributed reporting to this story.