WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota’s delegation split along party lines when the U.S. House narrowly passed last week a landmark climate-change bill that would, for the first time, cap greenhouse gas emissions and move to establish a national carbon market.
The bill squeaked through Friday 219-212 after last minute lobbying by House leaders, the White House and even former Vice President Al Gore.
All of Minnesota’s House Democrats voted in favor of the measure and each of the delegation’s Republicans opposed it.
Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson, Jim Oberstar, and Tim Walz had been on the fence, but in the end cast their votes for the legislation, which would fundamentally change the way energy is handled in the United States.
In comments from the House floor, Oberstar praised the bill’s aim of reducing pollution while still protecting forestry and iron ore mining industries with credits and emissions allowances.
But Oberstar said he still had “concerns” over how trade would be affected.
“While I am prepared to support this legislation today,” Oberstar said. “I continue to have concerns with the climate change bill regarding the border adjustment mechanism. It is imperative that the final climate change legislation contain strong safeguards to ensure that our manufacturing sector is not disadvantaged by imports from nations that have not implemented carbon reduction technologies.”
Oberstar said that without changes to the bill as passed by the House, “it is likely that the steel, wood product, and other energy-intensive sectors of our economy would face unfair competition from nations with insufficient environmental safeguards.”
Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, who represents Minnesota’s 3rd District and voted against the measure, warned of new energy costs that might be handed down to consumers.
“The bill places a massive national energy tax on every resident of the 3rd District, as well as all Americans,” Paulsen said in a statement.
Democrats in favor of the legislation disagree with this largely Republican-held sentiment, however, saying that the bill will actually create more jobs through the development of a more robust clean-energy sector and that consumers will be sheltered from most of the increased costs.
Still, the bill has a long way to go before reaching President Obama’s pen. Although it has cleared a major hurdle, it will need to get through the Senate and be passed by the House again before it can be signed into law. And with each lawmaker trying to defend his or her corner of America — whether it is agricultural land, coal-producing country or polluted urban centers — it will be difficult to please everyone.