Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said she intends to move climate legislation through the panel, responding to the president’s call for Congress to act despite an assured lack of GOP support.
"It’s not going to be pretty," the California Democrat said Wednesday. "It is going to make making sausage look pretty."
Boxer is likely referring to legislation she is co-sponsoring with Vermont independent Bernard Sanders, which will be unveiled Thursday, to place a price on carbon emissions.
The promise to move the bill through committee is a slight departure from past statements she has made on climate. Boxer said late last year she was aware of a few distinct bills that senators were developing to try to mitigate climate change impacts, rather than a comprehensive effort.
Boxer said she has talked to Maine Republican Susan Collins about continuing her work on bipartisan measures to address climate change. Collins has collaborated with Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell on a cap-and-dividend approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the past.
But Collins said the issue isn’t her top priority, with the threat of sequestration looming. "I’ve really been focused on other issues in the last few weeks," she said.
It is unclear to what extent Boxer lending her name to the Sanders bill will affect her working relationship with ranking Republican David Vitter of Louisiana. The committee’s first order of business is expected to be a water resources development reauthorization. Though committee Democrats and Republicans have vastly different opinions on global warming, they have a history of collaborating on infrastructure issues.
A Vitter spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
President Barack Obama made it clear to lawmakers Tuesday that he will move forward on executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, which many expect to include EPA regulations on new and existing power plants, if Congress does not send him legislation otherwise.
California Democrat Henry A. Waxman, ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he believes Republicans will be more inclined to work on climate legislation once the EPA begins finalizing limits on greenhouse gas emissions and other climate-change-inducing pollutants.
"I think once the administration starts taking action, it’s more likely that Congress will act because a lot of the businesses in this country will say they want legislation to be much more attentive to the different regional differences," he said. "And I think that it may even wake up some of the Republicans in the House who don’t even believe in the science, don’t even want to hear from the scientists."
Meanwhile, the top Republican on the Senate Energy panel signaled her support for Obama’s proposal to funnel revenues from oil and gas production to a trust fund for alternative energy research. In particular, the administration is advocating research to shift vehicles from petroleum-based fuels to cleaner substitutes.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who proposed a similar concept in her energy policy blueprint earlier this month, is developing revenue-sharing legislation with Louisiana Democrat Mary L. Landrieu that employs a slightly different concept to finance renewable-energy efforts.
Their plan would steer 27.5 percent of federal dollars made from both fossil fuel and renewable resources harnessed offshore to state coffers, with another 10 percent available to states that develop clean-energy or conservation programs.
"I intend to get to work on this as soon as possible," she said in a written statement about the proposed trust fund.
The measure would also allow landlocked states to qualify for 50 percent of royalties generated from renewable-energy projects on public lands in their borders, which is approximately the same percentage states currently receive for oil and gas production on federal real estate.
Murkowski would likely pursue the trust fund idea separately from the revenue-sharing legislation, according to spokesman Robert Dillon. There are also some significant differences between their proposals: Murkowski wants to use revenue generated from expanded energy production to fund such research, whereas the Obama administration reportedly would execute the plan without boosting drilling opportunities, he said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
In a recently issued report, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan organization that promotes reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, recommended establishing a trust financed by fossil fuel production revenues.