Legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank may be brought to the Senate floor without a provision that would reverse bank policy limiting the financing of overseas coal projects, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told Bloomberg BNA July 16.
Instead, the bill will be brought to the floor “clean” with a separate vote to be held on the coal measure backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), said Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee and opposes the change in coal financing.
“My understanding is it's coming clean to the floor, and there will be an amendment,” Boxer said.
Jonathan Kott, a spokesman for Manchin, said the coal provision is still included “as the bill currently stands,” though he conceded that could change.
“We are continuing to work with all parties involved to make sure we reauthorize the bank, which is vital to the U.S. economy, and protect our global environment by ensuring that American exporters are able to provide best technology to the world,” Kott said in an e-mail.
Democratic Opposition Seen
Moving the provision as a separate amendment, rather than including it in the underlying bill, decreases its chances for passage because of opposition from Senate Democrats, Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg BNA.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met with Manchin and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to discuss the coal provision July 15 , according to a Senate Democratic aide who also said the bill would be brought to the floor without the coal measure.
“Just get a bill to the floor and then they can have amendments,” Cantwell, who supports reauthorizing the bank, but not Manchin's coal provision, told Bloomberg BNA.
Cantwell's state is home to two major production facilities for the Boeing Co., which is “the largest beneficiary of Ex-Im's activities,” a report by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said, according to Bloomberg News.
Manchin's measure would require the Ex-Im Bank to abandon guidance it issued in December that said the bank would no longer support new power plants in developing nations unless there are no economically feasible alternatives or the plants use carbon capture technologies.
Groups Oppose Underlying Bill
The language has led environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to oppose the underlying bill to reauthorize the bank, which provides financing to expand U.S. trade and faces a Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to reauthorize its charter.
Since 2011, the bank has authorized $1.5 billion in financing for coal projects, funding that has benefited U.S. companies such as Milwaukee, Wis.-based mining equipment manufacturer Bucyrus International and Overland Park, Kan.–based Black & Veatch Corp.
The bank is considering financing a 3,960 megawatt coal-fired power plant with an integrated coal mine called the Ultra Mega Power Project in Tilaiya, India, according to online records.
While the bank wouldn't be allowed to consider such a project under the new guidelines issued following the release of the Obama administration's climate action plan, a rider inserted into a government funding bill by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) put those guidelines on hold until the end of the current fiscal year, according to the NRDC's Schmidt.
Manchin Cites Benefits
“A 4,000 MW plant would have a huge climate impact—around 900 million tons of [carbon dioxide] over its lifetime (under conservative assumptions),” Schmidt said in an e-mail. “And since 2007, Ex-Im has supported around 9,500 MW of coal power plants—with total lifetime emissions of 1,800 million tons of CO2.”
Manchin, who chairs the Senate Banking Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance, which has jurisdiction over the Export-Import Bank, has said his provision would increase the export of American clean coal technology.
“If we acknowledge we have a climate problem and we're responsible human beings, shouldn't we use the best technology?” Manchin told reporters July 16.
The previously routine reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has drawn opposition from some conservative lawmakers, such as incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has argued the bank's function would be better left to the private sector.
The inclusion of Manchin's coal proposal could help otherwise reluctant Republicans.
Republican Support Expected
“I do think it's a positive development,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said. “It makes the bill a better and stronger bill.”
Thune said it wasn't clear whether the inclusion of the coal language would be enough to attract Republican votes but said he supported its inclusion in the legislation.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the inclusion of the coal language would help promote access to electricity around the world and improve the environment. He also called it “helpful” to the legislation's prospects.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he hasn't taken a public position on the coal language.
Coal Provision Called 'Poison Pill.'
A number of Democrats expressed concern the inclusion of the coal language could derail the prospects for passing the legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
“We shouldn't be playing games with a bill of this significance,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Bloomberg BNA. “Ultimately that could be a poison pill for a lot of us.”
Manchin will need to persuade a number of Democrats from coal-reliant states to back the language, but several declined to take positions on the language at this point in the process. Sen. Mark Warner's (D-Va.) office said his position on the coal language remained undetermined.
With assistance from Anthony Adragna @AnthonyAdragna
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