Sportsmen, Colorado conservationists question some aspects of climate bill

Nearly a year after the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act last June, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Wednesday finally rolled out their much-anticipated American Power Act.

Notably absent from the bill’s introduction was Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who withdrew his support when comprehensive immigration reform jumped to the front of the legislative line. His backing was seen as key to wooing other Republicans in order to get 60 votes and avoid a filibuster.

Sportsmen’s groups and Colorado environmental advocates simultaneously lauded the legislation and began to pick it apart, especially where it deals with domestic energy production and the impacts to public lands.

“While sportsmen appreciate congressional efforts to better manage public lands and waters during energy development, we still are waiting for action by the administration regarding promises that were made earlier this year,” said Tom Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership director of policy and government relations.

Environment Colorado questioned the expansion of offshore drilling in the bill, especially in the wake of the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and provisions to spark a “nuclear power renaissance” that the group sees as unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive to combating global warming.

“We also are disappointed that the draft would block states from enacting their own cap-and-trade programs and curtails EPA authority to deal with new coal plants, especially if the federal program is found to be ineffective in future years,” said Pam Kiely, Environment Colorado program director. She cited an Environment America study concluding “that state-led action on energy and global warming will cut pollution by more than 535 million metric tons by 2020.”

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall issued a statement saying he was pleased to see provisions for nuclear power in the bill, including a proposal he put forth last year to explore small modular nuclear reactors.

“The bill isn’t perfect – ultimately, our ability to address our triple challenges of economic and national security and our planet’s health will hinge on the expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency. That’s the best way to achieve energy independence, and I will continue to fight for investments that will help us reach that goal,” Udall said.

The goal of the American Power Act is to curtail greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. To see the entire bill, click here (pdf). For a summary, click here (pdf).

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