Democratic lawmakers have scrapped plans to introduce climate change legislation and are instead preparing an energy bill that will address the BP oil spill, a senior US senator said Thursday.
“We have a responsibility — both to our constituents and our children — to take on America’s energy challenge,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Many of us want to do that through a comprehensive bill… Unfortunately, at this time not one Republican wants to join us in achieving this goal,” he said. “That isn’t just disappointing. It’s dangerous.”
President Barack Obama has made climate change legislation a key priority, and told Americans during an Oval Office address in June that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was a sign of the urgent need for energy alternatives.
“The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” he said at the time.
“Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”
But Republicans have refused to support sweeping energy reform, arguing that policies like “cap-and-trade,” intended to limit harmful emissions, will cost American businesses and hobble US innovation.
In the face of unified opposition, and lacking the supermajority needed to pass legislation without Republican votes, Reid and Democratic Senator John Kerry said they would focus on a narrower bill for now.
“To be clear: we are not putting forth this bill in place of a comprehensive bill,” Reid said.
“But we will not pass up the opportunity to hold BP accountable, lessen our dependence on oil, create good paying American jobs and protect the environment.”
Kerry said he would continue to work towards “sixty votes for comprehensive legislation that appropriately targets, in an appropriate way, carbon, so that we can send signals to the marketplace and change the direction and create jobs for America and improve our security.”
The less ambitious legislation being developed would directly address the catastrophic oil spill triggered by an explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20.
It would seek to ensure that BP assumes all the costs of cleaning up spilled oil, propose measures to prevent similar environmental disasters and also move to create more so-called “green jobs” in clean energy production.