How Money Watered Down the Climate Bill
July 14, 2009 - On June 26, the House narrowly passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454) by a vote of 219 to 212. The final version of the bill that passed the House Floor differed substantially from the version that was originally introduced by Reps. Waxman and Markey. As the bill heads to the Senate for further markups and compromises, MAPLight.org examined some of the House actions that illustrate the influence of special interests on the legislative process. House members' positions on changes to the bill tended to correlate with financial support from the interest groups that would benefit from these changes.
Campaign contribution figures cited in this report and on the MAPLight.org website are based on MAPLight.org’s analysis of contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Amendment to gut the whole bill
Only one amendment vote was recorded on the House Floor, offered by James "Randy" Forbes (R-VA) and cited as “The New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence.” The purpose of the amendment was to replace the entire energy bill with a much shorter bill that generally seeks to promote, through federal grants, the development of alternative energy sources, explicitly including, though not limited to, “the development of a sustainable nuclear fusion” reactor. The amendment would have reduced hundreds of pages of legislation to just 21 pages, eliminating all provisions for an offset (“cap and trade”) market, efficiency standards and emissions regulations.
A "Yes" vote on the Forbes amendment would provide incentives for nuclear energy production, while significantly reducing the overall regulatory impact of the energy bill. The main industry opponents of the energy bill are the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association. Each legislator voting "Yes" on the Forbes amendment received an average of $20,065 from the Oil & Gas, Coal Mining and Nuclear Energy industries between 2003 and 2008, more than three times as much as the $5,872 received by each legislator voting "No." The Forbes’ amendment failed 172-256.
Among Forbes’ top five campaign contributors from 2003-2008 are defense R&D contractors Northrop Grumman and Alion Science and Technologies and natural gas pipeline construction company W.E. Curling. Explore all of Forbes’ contributions from 2003-2008 on MAPLight's contributions search page.
Over 200 additional amendments were offered to the House Rules Committee ahead of the Floor vote. There was no recorded Floor vote on any of these amendments, though many were incorporated into the engrossed bill (the bill that passed the House Floor).
House Rules Committee Amendments to HR 2454
Energy & Commerce Committee markups
Although HR 2454 underwent significant changes from introduction to Floor vote, these markups were made behind closed doors. Only the Energy & Commerce Committee offered a record of its markup process. A few key votes collected and analyzed by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) illustrate areas of controversy where industries sought to influence the markup process.
Oil & gas giveaway
Rep. Raymond “Gene” Green (D-TX) offered an amendment to edit one word in Section 786(b)(1)(B)(ii), changing “source” to “emission point.” This change has the potential to significantly increase eligibility for industrial polluters like oil and gas refiners to receive carbon allowances.
Green’s amendment was agreed to by voice vote in the Committee, and was engrossed (included) in the final version of the House bill. The Oil & Gas sector - including Petroleum refining & marketing, Independent oil & gas producers, Multinational oil & gas producers, etc. - gave an average of $72,119 from 2003-2008 to members of Energy & Commerce Committee in the 111th Congress (CSV).
Rep. Green received $177,913 (CSV) from the Oil & Gas sector from 2003-2008, more than twice as much as the average for Energy & Commerce Committee members.
Redefining renewable biomass
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) sponsored an amendment within the Energy & Commerce Committee markup session to broaden the definition of renewable biomass. According to the LCV, “enacting Walden’s amendment would have removed critical safeguards that prevent habitat on our nation’s public and private forests from being plowed up in the name of biofuels production.”
MAPLight.org’s analysis of the Committee vote as recorded and published by LCV shows that Energy & Commerce Committee members who voted "Yes" on the Walden amendment received an average of $25,745 each from the Forestry and Paper Products industry, ten times as much as the $2,541 received, on average, by each member voting "No."
Rep. Walden’s amendment proposed that the definition of “renewable biomass” should not be restricted to materials that are harvested in sustainable quantities. Although the amendment was rejected, concessions were made to the Agriculture and Lumber industries that ultimately result in a revised definition of “renewable biomass” that includes feed grains, agricultural commodities, crop residue, other vegetative waste material (including wood waste and wood residues) and animal waste and byproducts (including fats, oils, greases, and manure). See Sec 126
Redefining renewable energy
Fred Upton (R-MI) offered an amendment to redefine renewable energy to include nuclear energy. According to the LCV, “This amendment would have redefined what energy sources count towards the renewable electricity standard (RES) to include all nuclear energy.” The amendment was defeated 29-26.
Nuclear energy industry contributors gave nearly twice as much money to legislators who voted "Yes" as they gave to legislators who voted "No", based on MAPLight.org’s analysis of this Committee vote as recorded by LCV. Committee members who voted to redefine RES received an average of $9,131, compared to $4,890 received by committee members who voted to maintain the more limited definition of RES.
Although numerous amendments attempted to secure concessions for the nuclear industry, most were not engrossed into the final version of the bill. One pro-nuclear amendment was engrossed that provides funding for the Energy Secretary to produce a report on “the use of thorium-fueled nuclear reactors for national energy needs.” See Sec. 199
Exemptions for agricultural polluters
Consideration for agricultural interests was a prominent feature of the final compromise. For example, George Radanovich (R-CA) offered an amendment that “cancels cap-and-trade provisions if 43,846 agriculture jobs are lost because of the law's enactment.” Radanovich’s top contributing interest group is the Crop Production and Basic Processing industry, providing more than twice as much money in campaign contributions to Radanovich as any other industry from 2003-2008.
Ultimately, although this particular amendment was defeated in Committee, the version of the final energy bill that passed the House Floor exempts forestry and agricultural sectors from the new emissions standards, as well as providing other key concessions to Agribusiness and the Chair of the Agriculture Committee. See Section 501
In particular, a number of engrossed amendments effectively limit the EPA’s authority to regulate agricultural emissions and shifts the responsibility to the USDA. An amendment proposed by the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN) requires “the Agriculture Secretary to establish a list of types of domestic agricultural and forestry practices that result in reductions or avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions. It exempts the agriculture and forestry sectors from the bill's emission caps. It redefines biomass. It grandfathers existing biodiesel plants to exempt them from lifecycle analysis under the RFS.” See Title V and the House Rules’ summary of amendments.
Colin Peterson’s top five contributing interest groups from 2003-2008 are from the Agricultural sector (CSV).
ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: SELECTED MARKUP VOTES
|House Energy & Commerce Committee - Walden Amendment vote as recorded by LCV: Contributions from Forestry & Forest Products; and Paper & Pulp Mills and Paper Manufacturing Industries|
|Average to No voters||$2,541|
|Barton (Ranking Member)||R||(TX-6)||$11,000||Y|
|Average to Yes voters||$25,745|
|House Energy & Commerce Committee - Upton Amendment vote as recorded by LCV: Contributions from Nuclear Energy Industry|
|Average to No Voters||$4,890|
|Barton (Ranking Member)||R||(TX-6)||$42,997||Y|
|Average to Yes Voters||$9,131|
MAPLight.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) research organization based in Berkeley, California. Our mission is to illuminate the connection between Money and Politics (MAP) using our groundbreaking database of campaign contributions and legislative votes. We combine data from the Federal Election Commission, the Center for Responsive Politics, GovTrack.us, the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP), the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and other sources to better inform Americans and local and national media about the role of special-interest money in our political system. Hundreds of newspapers, TV stations, radio shows and online news sites have cited our research, including CNN, the public radio show “Marketplace,” Harper’s magazine, The Washington Post, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal. MAPLight.org has received numerous awards including a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism; a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter and a Webby nomination for best Politics website. To learn more, visit: MAPLight.org.