Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a potential fence-sitter in climate and energy talks, wants Senate Majority Leader Reid to ensure the version of a plan that actually hits the floor for debate undergoes a full economic analysis.
While Reid has promised to have a bill analyzed before it hits the floor, Voinovich sent him a letter today arguing the study must take into account any changes made by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., between the time they unveil a climate and energy plan and when it comes up on the Senate floor.
"As you are aware, comprehensive climate legislation of the type envisioned by Senator's Kerry, Graham and Lieberman is exceedingly complex," Voinovich wrote. Even small changes, he said, "can have significant effects on other regulated sectors and the cumulative economic impacts."
Voinovich also requested that both EPA and the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration do economic analyses.
"The EPA does excellent work, but analysis by EIA -- whose focus and expertise lies on our nation's energy infrastructure -- will be an invaluable tool to the Senate's understanding of the bill," Voinovich wrote.
Kerry, Graham and Lieberman Wednesday sent an outline of their draft plan to both EPA and EIA for analysis. Neither EPA nor EIA received actual bill text but rather "specifications" that can be used for modeling.
"We've been provided with enough specifications about the language to begin the modeling effort," EIA spokesman Jonathan Cogan said. EIA will analyze the impact the outline would have on energy supply, demand and prices, as well as emissions.
EIA's involvement is generally seen by centrists as essential for their agreement to sign off or work on a climate and energy strategy.
"There is a sense that the two organizations have somewhat different constituencies that prefer one or the other," said Paul Bledsoe of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy. "Republicans and conservative Democrats will be more reassured by an EIA analysis than an EPA analysis."
EPA officials say their analysis should take six to eight weeks. It is less clear how long EIA would need.
"Right now I can't give you a hard time frame," Cogan said. He said it would take at least six to eight weeks, possibly longer if the specifications they have been given are changed.
Voinovich is also asking for an analysis of how a plan might pre-empt EPA and state greenhouse gas regulations and other federal environmental laws that could be used in climate change lawsuits. Voinovich said the draft from Kerry, Graham and Lieberman would pre-empt "certain portions" of the Clean Air Act but not all.
He also said it is unclear to what degree and how long the three senators are proposing to pre-empt state regulations.
Voinovich has floated the idea of pre-empting not just EPA and state greenhouse gas regulations but also portions of laws such as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act that also deal with climate change.
"To the extent that these programs are not pre-empted by the legislation under consideration, EPA and EIA should also analyze ... their accumulative costs," Voinovich wrote.