Will GoM oil leak hurt climate bill’s chances? Maybe

Senate majority leader Harry Reid reportedly said the GoM oil leaks should expedite the passage of a climate/energy bill. This makes intuitive sense – after all, we’re hearing a lot about a backlash against offshore drilling, and some politicians have come out against it.

On the federal level, however, senators such as Mary Landrieu are maintaining their pro-drilling stance, although Virginia’s senators say they agree drilling should be delayed.

Complicated the issue further is that an expansion of offshore drilling was seen as a key sweetener for winning support for the bill.

Much of the vocal opposition from congressmen is coming from those who were already against offshore drilling — such as Senators Bill Nelson, Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, who are pledging to block any bill that would allow new offshore drilling. They were among the 10 senators who wrote a letter saying they would oppose the climate bill if it expanded offshore drilling. And on our rough reckoning, they would make it extremely difficult for the climate bill to pass.

Ezra Klein contends that their reaffirmed opposition to offshore drilling, combined with last week’s Reid-Graham spat, makes a climate bill less likely. Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations agrees.

There is one glimmer of hope for the climate bill/offshore drilling divide, however. The Hill’s Ben Geman mentions at the end of his story:

However, a Senate aide familiar with the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman plan said it would also allow states to pass laws that block lease sales within 75 miles of their coasts.

So perhaps there is a get-out clause there — if, say, Virginia’s senators Mark Warner and James Webb, thought to be likely supporters of a climate bill, were sufficiently enraged to block the bill based on offshore drilling provisions. Both are traditionally supporters of offshore drilling, however, and have only talked about delays and investigations, not an outright pullback on drilling.

Then there’s still the problem of a disgruntled Senator Lindsey Graham. On balance, the climate bill may not be in much more trouble than it already was. But that was fairly serious.

Related links:

Has the White House painted itself into a corner on climate change? FT Energy Source
US climate bill obstacles: The 10 anti-drilling senators, and more - FT Energy Source

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