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Domenici Backs Off Warming Limits

June 21, 2005|Miguel Bustillo | Times Staff Writer

Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico announced Monday that he would not sponsor an amendment to address global warming as part of this year's energy bill, a development that reduced the probability that Congress would act to regulate greenhouse gases.

Domenici, shepherding the Senate version of the energy bill, had considered co-writing the amendment with Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) despite opposition from the White House and some GOP lawmakers who contend that mandatory caps on greenhouse gases would hurt the economy.

But ultimately, Domenici said he could not resolve questions about the amendment in time to include it in the energy bill, which the Senate is debating.

"This is just too tough to do quickly," he said.

Bingaman, expressing disappointment, vowed to move on with the amendment, which would establish a modest but mandatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions. It would be the first serious U.S. effort to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases that many scientists link to rising temperatures and sea levels.

Citing economic concerns, President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only major developed nation other than Australia not to ratify the international pact. The protocol seeks to reduce emissions by participating nations to about 5% below 1990 levels by 2012.

As word spread Friday that Domenici had been persuaded by science academies from 11 nations to act against global warming, Vice President Dick Cheney met privately with him to outline the Bush administration's objections to a mandatory limit.

With Domenici's support, the amendment, which may come up for debate in the Senate today, was expected to have a better chance of clearing the Senate and making it into a final version of the energy bill that could reach Bush's desk. Without it, the proposal may lack bipartisan support. The amendment, which is less restrictive than the Kyoto Protocol, would establish a cap on industrial releases of greenhouse gases to slow their accumulation in the atmosphere, but would not begin to reduce them until 2020 at the earliest.

Two other global warming amendments are also expected to be debated today.

One, a revised version of legislation by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) that previously failed to pass the Senate, seeks to establish a tighter cap on greenhouse gases than the Bingaman-Domenici amendment would have. But it has lost support among environmentalists and some lawmakers because it includes subsidies that could help fund nuclear power plants.

The other, an amendment by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), would not require greenhouse gas reductions, but would provide government subsidies for industries to develop better technologies to reduce emissions.

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