Cap-and-trade bill may die in Senate

Don’t expect Congress to pass a national cap-and-trade system this year, said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association.

Speaking to participants at Waterpower XVI, a recent conference and trade show for hydropower professionals in Spokane, Wash., Ciocci pointed to the narrow passage of the climate change bill (HR 2454) in the House. The measure won approval by a vote of 219-212.

“They needed 218 votes. They got 219,” Ciocci said. “You can see the contentiousness with this issue. We expect to have the same issues as this legislation moves through the Senate.”

At issue is the cost to consumers. Some lawmakers contend the House bill would lead to a substantial increase in electricity bills amid an economic recession. Ciocci said the bill will likely fail because a 60-vote majority is required to move the legislation to a vote in the Senate.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a climate bill passed by Congress this year because I don’t think they’re going to get to that 60-vote level,” Ciocci said.

However, lawmakers in both chambers are expected to reach an agreement on a renewable portfolio standard, a measure that would require electric utilities to get a certain amount of their power from renewable resources, including hydro power, Ciocci said.

Under the House measure, any hydropower generation built after 1988 would count toward whatever renewable standard Congress adopts.

“They have to give President Obama something as he goes off to Copenhagen” to negotiate a new U.N.-brokered climate treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that expired in 2012, Ciocci said.

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