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Historic climate bill gets yes vote in committee

Here's some breaking news for those who have been following this blog's coverage of the proposed landmark global warming bill before the U.S. Senate.Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, just sent out a press release a few minutes ago saying the "Climate Security Act" proposed by Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John Warner of Virginia has made it out of committee.That's a first step toward creating a national "cap and trade" system that would penalize businesses that spew too much global warming gas, and reward cleaner companies.  It's still not clear if the measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, can win over enough Republicans to get the 60 votes necessary to avoid a filibuster.  And some liberal environmental groups have criticized it for giving away too much to power companies.  But it's a step in the direction of action, from a country that creates lots of greenhouse gas pollution but has done almost nothing as Europe, Japan and other nations have begun to act.Here's the release from Boxer's office: "The vote of the Environment and Public Works Committee in favor of the Climate Security Act was a historic moment for our country and for my Committee. For me, it was the greatest legislative accomplishment of my political career of thirty years. Finally, America is taking bold steps to avert the catastrophe that awaits our children and grandchildren if we do nothing."

 Frank O'Donnell, an environmental activist who goes by the handle of "Clean Air Frank," noted that Presidential candidate John Edwards criticized the bill because of what he called its multi-billion dollar giveaways to coal-burning companies. 

"Hillary Clinton, very shrewdly, had an amendment put up during yesterday’s committee battle that would have fixed this problem.  But her amendment was defeated because of opposition led by Boxer and Lieberman (who called it a "poison pill.") Several senators -- including Cardin of Maryland and Lautenberg of New Jersey -- sat on the fence until it was clear the amendment would lose – then voted on Hillary’s side.  That’s politics for you!" O'Donnel wrote.
 
Here is John Edwards' statement: "Addressing global warming is one of the great moral tests of our generation, and it’s time for bold action and leadership to address this crisis that threatens the globe. While I’m glad to see that global warming legislation is finally moving in the Senate, unfortunately the Lieberman-Warner bill doesn’t go far enough to address the crisis of global warming. We cannot be limited in our approach by the armies of lobbyists from big oil companies and other special interests. This bill gives away pollution permits to industry for free -- a massive corporate windfall -- instead of doing what is right and selling them so that we can use these resources to invest in clean energy research, create a new economy of green jobs, and help regular families and business go green.

I believe it is our moral obligation to do everything climate science says is needed to save our planet. Ending global warming won't be easy, but it is time to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. If we start taking the bold action I have recommended, we can emerge from the crisis of global warming with an economy built on clean, renewable energy and more than one million new jobs."

Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said: "This evening’s vote marks a new era in Congress and a new approach to global warming. After years of empty promises in Congress, this evening’s victory is a sign that the leadership and political will are at hand to get the job done."

The final vote was 11-8 in favor.  Maryland Sen. Cardin was one of the votes favoring the measure. The next step is for the bill to be debated on the Senate floor.  No date has yet been set for that.

Doug Siglin, director of federal legislative affairs for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said: "Global climate change poses significant threats both to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and to those who live in this region. The Lieberman-Warner legislation is a significant step forward in the United States’ effort to reduce the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Increasingly, scientists are expressing concern that climate change is likely to produce severe regional weather events, cause flooding of wetlands and other low-lying areas, and make the job of restoring the Chesapeake Bay even more difficult.  CBF is particularly pleased that the bill allocates a significant amount of funding derived from its emission allowance auction to states and federal agencies in the Chesapeake Bay region to help mitigate the impacts to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and habitats. We commend committee members John Warner (R-VA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), for their co-sponsorship of the legislation, and look forward to working with them and other senators to further strengthen the bill as it moves through the legislative process."

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