Oil spill hurts climate compromise's chances, Graham suggests

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 11 -- The Gulf of Mexico rig accident and oil spill has made prospects for US Senate passage of a compromise climate bill with more offshore oil and gas activity bleak, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-Ala.) conceded.

“When it comes to getting 60 votes for legislation that includes additional oil and gas drilling with revenue sharing, the climb has gotten steeper because of the oil spill,” he said on May 7, noting that a compromise he and Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) proposed late last year contained such a provision. Graham quit discussions with them about compromise climate change legislation on Apr. 30 after Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) would not agree to consider the issue before immigration reform.

Referring to an Apr. 19 letter to their colleagues from Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) in which they reiterated their strong opposition to sharing new federal offshore energy revenue with coastal states, Graham continued: “It doesn’t take long to conclude that opposition to expanded offshore drilling with revenue sharing has grown among certain Senate Democrats. Some have even declared energy legislation ‘dead on arrival’ if it contains an expansion of offshore drilling.”

He said he respects their views, but added that he has reached a different conclusion. “I remain committed to safely expanding offshore drilling because I know oil will be part of our nation’s energy plan for years to come,” Graham said. “Every barrel we can find in the United States is one less we have to import from [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries]. And today, some of the dollars we spend on imported oil find their way into the hands of terrorists who wish to harm our nation.”

He noted that as a senator from a coastal state, he believes it makes sense to determine what happened off Louisiana’s coast, enact safety measures to keep it from happening again, and then build a consensus for expanding oil and gas activity on the US Outer Continental Shelf.

Cap-and-trade dead
Graham also declared dead the climate change bill instituting a carbon cap-and-trade program, which the full US House and Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved in 2009. “It has been replaced by a new model that focuses on energy independence, job creation, and clean air,” he maintained. “I appreciate the work of Sens. Kerry and Lieberman, who have been good allies in trying to move this debate in a new, more-productive direction. I am particularly proud of the efforts we have made in creating a renaissance in nuclear power, which leads to energy security and fosters job creation.”

Lieberman and Graham jointly responded that they appreciate Graham’s continued commitment to passing comprehensive energy legislation as they said they plan to roll out their proposal on May 12.

“We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security, and our environment,” they said on May 7. “Our optimism is bolstered because there is a growing and unprecedented bipartisan coalition from the business, national security, faith, and environmental communities that supports our legislation and is energized to work hard and get it passed.”

When it comes to improving energy security and reducing pollution, the American public finds the status quo unacceptable, Graham declared. “Many senators from both parties have stated that Congress should set energy and carbon pollution policy, not the [US Environmental Protection Agency]. I could not agree more,” he said. “Therefore, we should move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance at success.

“I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future,” Graham continued. “But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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