WASHINGTON – The White House has told a group of House GOP conservatives it may be forced to support a limited cap on greenhouse gases and avoid a “train wreck” of regulations involving climate change, sources familiar with the meeting said Monday.
A range of options presented at a meeting last week between senior White House officials and a group of Republican lawmakers was aimed at gauging the reaction to a possible shift of Bush administration policy on climate change.
“The meeting was set up to float a few trial balloons” and it did not go well, with some participants viewing it as “political appeasement” on global warming, said a GOP operative who was briefed on the meeting. He said, given the response, the White House may be retreating on the issue.
White House press secretary Dana Perino acknowledged Monday that the administration was working on new climate change proposals, but said no decision had been made. “We’re having a very robust discussion,” said Perino at a White House briefing. “There’s a basket of things that we’re dealing with.”
At the meeting, White House officials outlined a range of options that were being considered, from simply proposing a set of “principles” to proposing to cap greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, according to two individuals familiar with the discussions.
Perino disputed that description, saying the White House officials, rather than presenting the lawmakers with options, “went up to discuss with members the range of complications and concerns” raised by the possibility of having to regulate greenhouse gases under existing laws.
The Bush administration has been a staunch opponent of a mandatory so-called “cap-and-trade” approach to reducing greenhouse gases, preferring largely voluntary measures to broadly address global warming.
“We aren’t necessarily against cap-and-trade proposals,” Perino said Monday, but she added quickly, “What we’ve seen so far from Congress is not something that we can support.”
The Senate is expected in June to begin debate on legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., that would cap greenhouse gas emissions from most sources and allow polluters to purchase emission permits instead of making reductions. It is designed to cut emissions 70 percent by midcentury. The House also is planning to draft climate legislation soon.