Waxman-Markey Energy and Climate Package Clears Key Hurdle

A pika, which is a species threatened by global warming, in the wild. Photo by William C. Gladish.

Congratulations to all Wilderness Society supporters whose outpouring of e-mails, tweets, faxes and phone calls to members of the House of Representatives helped tip the balance in favor of The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey energy/climate bill.

On May 21, the conservative House Energy and Commerce Committee passed this major legislative initiative by a bipartisan vote of 33-25, sending it on to the full House for a vote this summer.

We have much work ahead, as the opponents of action to fight global warming gear up to try to kill this bill. The next key vote could occur as early as June 26.

The bill approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would for the first time require polluters to pay for the costs of dumping carbon pollution into the air. It would create a whole new clean energy industry and the businesses and jobs to support it. And the bill recognizes the crucial importance of safeguarding wildlife and other natural resources from the impacts of climate change and the need for a dedicated funding stream to support this work.

Some issues of particular importance to safeguarding our public lands were the subject of debate in the committee.

  • Biomass – The Waxman-Markey bill prevents power companies from using certain public lands as fuel sources for generating electricity. The bill makes clear, for example, that any harvest of wood from Wilderness Areas would not count toward meeting the bill’s goals for renewable electricity. We defeated several amendments that would have removed this protection for our most treasured public lands.
  • Natural Resources Adaptation –The Waxman-Markey bill provides that 1 percent of the funding be spent to help wildlife, plants and other critical links of biodiversity adapt to the changes in climate that already are occurring. Rep. Dingell, D-Mich., spoke forcefully in favor of this provision and TWS intends to seek additional support for this provision going forward, since billions of dollars will be needed to strengthen, nourish and rebuild coastal marshes, coral and oyster reefs, headwater forests, and wetlands, restore natural floodplains, maintain forest health, and protect and connect grasslands mountain corridors to serve as migratory paths for wildlife.
  • Transmission – The Waxman-Markey bill is expected to become the vehicle to address upgrading the electricity utility grid. We will be working to ensure that any such provisions include environmental safeguards, including the proposition that any new transition be built to serve new renewable energy, rather than the expansion of coal-based electricity.

photo: A pika, which is a species threatened by global warming, in the wild. Photo by William C. Gladish.