Democrats running Congress will likely not be able to pass climate legislation with mandatory limits on "greenhouse" gases without help from President Bush, the chairman of the Senate's energy panel said Monday.
The White House has long opposed such emission caps, even with provisions that allow industry to reduce the cost, arguing arbitrary limits could harm economic growth.
Congressional Democrats are giving climate legislation top priority. A number of bills have been proposed in the Senate to require reductions in greenhouse gases, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants a climate bill passed this summer.
Climate filibuster likely
But Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Monday getting a bill through the Senate "depends a lot on whether the White House is willing to work with us."
"If the administration wants to continue ... to oppose any and all mandatory limits of greenhouse gas emissions, it's going to be very difficult to get anything," Bingaman told reporters at the Platts Energy Podium, a forum sponsored by the McGraw-Hill publication.
It's almost certain supporters of climate legislation will need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome an expected filibuster by opponents. That would require garnering additional Republican support.
Overcoming a filibuster "depends very much on whether the White House is willing to work with us," said Bingaman, adding that if the administration agrees to "some meaningful limits" on emissions there is a "decent chance" of getting of getting a bill.
Mandatory emission reductions at issue
Bingaman said the administration now appears "more willing to listen" on the issue of climate, but has shown no sign of endorsing mandatory emission reductions.
Bingaman has proposed a bill that would require actions to slow the growth of greenhouse emissions and also provide for a safety-valve if costs are too steep.
His bill, which is still being revised, is viewed as the most modest "cap-and-trade" proposal before the Senate. Several other bills would require more aggressive emission reductions and have no economic safety valve for industry.
On other matters, Bingaman told reporters he expects to produce legislation soon to address the problems with flawed oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico that has allowed companies to avoid royalty payments.
He said he was concerned a House-passed bill that would bar companies from getting future leases unless they agree to rework the questionable leases would lead to protracted litigation over its legality.
He said he was interested in another approach to dealing not only with the flawed leases, but to clarify the Interior Department's authority to require royalty payments if market prices reach a certain level.
Several oil and gas companies in lawsuits claim that Congress never gave such authority.