WASHINGTON – Senate supporters of a bill that for the first time would put limits on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have launched an intense one-on-one effort to sound out their colleagues’ views in hopes of winning their support.

It’s by no means clear that they will succeed, however.

A climate and energy bill squeaked through the House of Representatives in June. But in the Senate, the odds are against it because Senate rules generally require a 60-vote majority to move legislation to a vote.

Looking for ways to revise the House measure to make it palatable for senators is a key goal. Senate committees have a Sept. 28 deadline for writing legislation, with floor action likely in October. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada wants to have a bill ready for President Barack Obama’s signature before international negotiations begin on a climate treaty in December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“We believe this bill is going to be good for the economy,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Thursday in between private one-on-one meetings with senators. Boxer, a leader in efforts to draft a Senate version of the bill, said it will be called the Climate Security Jobs Act.

The bill’s backers intend to use many of the same themes that came up in the House debate: opportunities for clean energy jobs and greater energy security.

“We’re going to hew pretty closely to what they did in the House,” where the bill was written to take into account the concerns of coal states, manufacturing interests and others, said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who’s also leading the Senate’s drive for a climate bill. “We’ve got some notions where it can be legitimately improved, but we’re going to approach it in a thoughtful way.”

The House-passed legislation would set up a system of permits that companies would be required to buy to emit greenhouse gases. The amount of allowable emissions would decrease over time.

Many provisions in the House bill were designed to overcome objections that helped kill consideration of the bill in the Senate last year. One, for example, would grant free permits to energy-intensive industries such as steel that could be harmed by competition with companies in countries that don’t have emissions reduction requirements.

Another would direct some of the money from permit sales to state-regulated electricity distribution companies in an effort to hold down rates that some say the emission limits would cause to rise.

The House-passed bill also includes higher efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, a requirement for all states to tap a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and funding for the development of an underground storage system for carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said a lot of other senators would vote for the bill as long as there are some changes.

Getting 60 votes will be difficult, however. Twenty or more Democrats are wary of supporting the legislation, and most Republicans are considered likely or probable “no” votes.

Adding to the trouble is the sheer complexity and reach of the effort.

The issues include how emission permit sales will be regulated, how protections for industry could harm international trade, and what’s in the bill to protect the economic interests of coal-dependent states and agriculture.

Many Republicans who favor action on climate are strong proponents of nuclear power. For that reason, some Senate observers say there’s likely to be a debate about whether the bill should contain more government policies favoring nuclear power. The House-passed bill already contains provisions that support private investment in nuclear power. It also makes nuclear power more attractive by raising the price of fossil fuels.


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