Colorado U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet with 12 other Senate Democrats signed onto a letter (pdf) urging Senate leaders weighing climate legislation to consider granting valuable credits to utilities that rely most heavily on coal. Udall and Bennet joined other perceived pro-climate legislation lawmakers such as Minnesota’s Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar in making the argument. The lawmakers’ proposal clearly aims to save money for residents in coal-dependent energy states like Colorado and Minnesota, but it moves against the spirit of the legislation, which is meant to discourage use of coal as an energy source.
Sens. Udall and Bennet seem to want it both ways: They want to support cap-and-trade progressive legislation but not have it effect Colorado.
From the letter:
Under the proposed 50/50 formula, utilities that are more coal dependent will need to purchase even more allowances than they would have if all allowances were allocated based on emissions.
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones made the catch and explains why the reasoning of this letter is seriously suspect:
This would work against the entire logic of the proposed scheme, which is to offer utilities financial incentives to switch to lower-carbon fuel sources. […]
Right now, the climate bill needs all the votes it can get from Democrats. So enviros worry that concessions to this bloc could ultimately result in a deal in which coal plants suffer no real penalties for the carbon they pump into the atmosphere.
“Dirty coal polluters know their days are numbered and are lobbying for the largest piece of the pie they can get,” said Jason Kowalski, policy coordinator at 1Sky. “It goes against the spirit of this legislation to reward the polluters that caused this problem in the first place.”
According to Open Secrets, Mark Udall has taken minimal amounts from the coal industry and from utilities. He accepted $1000 from coal mining interests this year. Bennet, however, accepted a whopping $28,600 from electric utilities this year, one of the top 20 lawmaker recipients, along with fellow letter-signers Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. Dorgan was the top recipient of electricity utility money, clocking in $146,585.
Signing on to the letter were Democratic Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Al Franken (Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.).