Notes on Afternoon’s EPW Mark-Up Hearing for Climate Bill

by William Yeatman on November 3, 2009

For background on this afternoon’s Senate Environment and Public Works mark-up hearing on S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power act, read this post on Boxer’s Reckless Pace.

2:34, Hearing begins:

Boxer thanks her Democratic colleagues for attending and for their strong voices in the morning.

Boxer sits before stacks and stacks of pages. She says they are the economic analysis and modeling that she says had been used by EPA’s staff. This is her rebuttal to GOP claims that they don’t have sufficient analysis on the economic impact of the bill.

Boxer brings up her days growing up “in an inner-city.” There, when someone wasn’t right, she had to “call them out.” Presumably, she is “calling out” the GOP by sitting in front of all that paper.

She again expresses her hope that members of the minority will arrive.

Boxer introduces David McIntosh, EPA’s associate administrator for congressional and governmental relations. McIntosh is a political appointee. He worked on Obama’s transition team, which means this is a hearing of partisan Democrats questioning a partisan Democrat.

McIntosh is there to talk about the EPA’s economic analysis of S. 1733. Boxer is having him testify to rebut GOP claims that EPW should not act on the legislation until the EPA has completed comprehensive economic analysis, which would take 5 weeks.

McIntosh claims that economic analysis of H.R. 2454, which EPA has already performed, won’t differ appreciably from analysis of S. 1733. This is based on three years worth of modeling climate legislation. It is “particularly unlikely” that running the “full suite” of S. 1733 would produce any significant difference. He also notes that the EPW committee had much less analysis available to it before it voted on Lieberman-Warner in the summer of 2008.

In light of all this, McIntosh claims that the agency can’t justify the cost (>$135k) and manpower to conduct another run of the economic model.

McIntosh claims that amount of EPA analysis is “unprecedented.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse asks McIntosh to clarify what he said. He ends his questioning by saying that Mr. McIntosh’s testimony sinks the GOP’s arguments for more modeling.

Sen. Jeff Merkley’s line of questioning addresses McIntosh’s point that more modeling is superfluous until the other Senate committees with jurisdiction weigh-in with their input. They both agree that the EPW draft is similar to H.R. 2454, so it’s a waste of money to model the Senate legislation until it actually changes.

Merkley then questions McIntosh about apparent differences between H.R. 2454 and S. 1733 (17% emissions reductions vs. 20% emissions reductions; different percentages of carbon allowances earmarked for deficit reduction; difference offset plans). According to McIntosh, none of these differences would change the model’s output.

Sen. Lautenberg: “Madam Chairman, I think we’re mired down here, but not by serious interests…there has been very little from the other side in terms of what they’d even like to see…it’s hard to find a serious advantage to permitting this delay.”

Sen. Carper questions McIntosh on his personal history. McIntosh was Lieberman’s lead staffer on the Lieberman-Warner-Boxer bill that foundered in Senate in 2008. McIntosh gives a history of that bill’s evolution. McIntosh says that the EPW Committee reported on Lieberman-Warner 4 months before EPA provided comprehensive economic analysis. McIntosh blames this on President George W. Bush.

Boxer asks if there was any economic analysis on the energy bill passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. McIntosh says he is unaware of any such analysis. Boxer is miffed. She again questions the GOP’s motives.

Boxer asks McIntosh what parameters were used to model H.R. 2454. He does this. She then says that all these parameters are in S. 1733. She claims that the Senate bill was drafted to mirror the House bill because the EPA had already performed extensive analysis.

McIntosh again says that the amount of analysis on S. 1733 is “unprecedented.”

Boxer thanks McIntosh. She notes that the doors are open, and she wishes that her “Republican friends” would walk through the door. She complains that minority party calls EPA analysis unsatisfactory, but no members showed up to question McIntosh. She is miffed. “It isn’t fair to roundly criticize an analysis, and then not show up when there’s an in depth discussion of that analysis,” she says. This is indicative of “stall tactics,” and “playing politics.” She continued, “They are stalling over something very important…This is a crucial issue. This is about jobs. This is about spending a billion dollars a day on oil…Our kids’ future.”

She says they’re going to reconvene to continue the mark-up.

N.B. The GOP’s response, in the form of a letter from Sen. George Voinovich, is available here. Specifically, the minority party objects to the EPA’s not having modeled these scenarios:

  • International action that lines up with the recent G8 agreement;
  • A scenario that assumes that no international offsets will be available;
  • A scenario that assumes: (1) through 2050, neither nuclear power nor biomass power deploys any more, or any faster, than in the reference case; and (2) no CCS gets built until after 2030;
  • A scenario that assumes both that no international offsets are available and (1) through 2050, neither nuclear power or biomass power deploys any more, or any faster, than in the reference case; and (2) no CCS gets built until after 2030;
  • A scenario that imposes the IPM electricity-sector reductions on ADAGE and the resulting impacts on the overall emissions-allowance market; and
  • A scenario that shows the impact of US policy on global greenhouse gas emissions and concentration levels.

So the majority party says that the EPW Committe already has access to “unprecedented” economic analysis, and the minority party says that this “unprecedented” analysis is unsatisfactory. Given that we are dealing with a trillion-dollar policy, I don’t see the problem with erring on the side of caution. It strikes me that thorough analysis should be welcome by the Senate, which is supposed to be a deliberative body.

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