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Dorgan's exit and climate change

By Juliet Eilperin

What does Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) retirement mean for the prospects of passing a climate bill this year?

It all depends on whom you ask.

On one end of the spectrum, the liberal Center for American Progress' senior fellow Daniel J. Weiss thinks the move "may free him up to vote for a global warming reduction bill." On the other end, Patrick Creighton of the conservative Institute for Energy Research thinks it will have no impact because the bill isn't going to pass anyway: "The reason the Senate is not taking up a climate bill has more to do with the American people opposing this legislation."

Post Carbon asked the senator, who has consistently backed energy legislation but opposed a national cap on greenhouse gases, whether his decision to leave the Senate would change his position on a cap-and-trade bill. His answer? "It doesn't make any difference."

But he did say in an interview Wednesday that he would devote "all of my energy in the coming year" to getting the bipartisan energy bill passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee signed into law.

"In my judgment, that's an energy bill," he said, noting it has a national renewable energy standard and measures to expand wind and solar energy, among other items.

Dorgan predicted that if the Senate decides it lacks the vote for a cap-and-trade bill, it will focus on energy legislation instead. "It becomes its own vehicle for doing energy policy that contributes to addressing climate change," he said.

Most centrists still see Dorgan as pivotal in getting something passed in the Senate on climate policy, since whomever succeeds him is likely to be more conservative on the issue. Rep. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), the most likely Democratic successor, voted against the House-passed climate bill, and North Dakota's GOP establishment is solidly against a cap-and-trade bill.

According to Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, "His impending retirement is yet one more reason to move a climate and energy package this year."
And Joshua Freed, who directs the Third Way's clean energy initiative, said the political environment could change in the next few months. "Today is the day a lot of Democrats in Washington will think the sky is falling," he wrote in an e-mail. "In the near term, Senator Dorgan's announcement may look bad for moving anything, including climate legislation, in the Senate. But the reality is no one expected it to hit the floor until spring. By then, we could be in a very different world."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  January 6, 2010; 4:30 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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