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Who's who in the congressional climate-change battle

THE US' debate over GHG emissions has become as heated as the effect of those emissions on the earth's air and oceans. Emotions have been running high as fierce advocates of both sides of the issue take their battle to the House and Senate floor

The Senate

Senator Barbara Boxer: after succeeding conservative Republican James Inhofe, a vocal climate change sceptic, as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, this California Democrat established two subcommittees to address global warming. She co-sponsored the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007, the Clean Power Act and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, all of which called for emissions reductions. In May 2010, she took yet another step towards addressing climate change when she introduced an amendment to the Clean Air Act that would reduce carbon pollution.

Senator Lindsey Graham: a Republican from South Carolina, had been viewed as a leading supporter of climate-change legislation. He worked with senators Joe Lieberman and John Kerry in drafting a climate-change bill, but in April 2010, just it was ready to be launched, he abruptly withdrew his support as a protest against immigration reform securing higher priority on the Senate agenda. Later, Graham questioned the science behind global warming and said he would vote against the Kerry-Lieberman bill.

Senator John Kerry: a senator from Massachusetts and former Democratic presidential nominee, Kerry has said he considers climate instability an immediate, direct threat to US national security. In February 2007, he co-sponsored a bill to establish an economy-wide global-warming pollution emissions cap-and-trade programme, and earlier this year he introduced legislation aimed at reducing emissions by 83% by 2050. The Kerry-Lieberman bill, proposed last in May 2009, called for mandatory gas caps on emissions from utilities, manufacturers and transportation; however, Senate majority leader Harry Reid removed the limits from the bill. Now the two senators have crafted an alternative bill that would impose carbon caps on utilities only.

Senator Joe Lieberman: a Connecticut Democrat turned independent, Lieberman ranked among the Senate's earliest cap-and-trade supporters. He and senator John McCain introduced legislation in 2003 that would have provided for trading emissions allowances; since then, he has sponsored numerous bills aimed at curbing global warming. In December 2009, he joined Senators Kerry and Graham in releasing a "framework" for a climate-change/energy-independence bill. After the cap-and-trade provisions it outlined failed to make the final bill proposed to the Senate, Lieberman and Kerry drafted an alternative bill that would cap carbon emissions from utilities only.

Senator Lisa Murkowski: a moderate Republican from oil-rich Alaska, Murkowski is one of the Senate's leading energy-policy experts and the ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She is known more prominently for her support of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for drilling and supporting the Alaska natural gas pipeline than for taking a stand on climate change. However, in 2009 she introduced a bill to prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and other stationery sources, and more recently she spearheaded a Senate resolution disputing the EPA's endangerment finding. Still, she had said she would support cap-and-trade legislation under certain circumstances.

Senator Jay Rockefeller: although his party is pushing for caps on emissions volumes, this Democratic senator has argued strongly against them. Such limits, he said, could do significant economic damage to industries in his home state, West Virginia, which ranks as the country's top coal producer. With this in mind, Rockefeller co-sponsored a bill that would limit the EPA's ability to regulate CO2 emissions for two years, and he voted in favour of a resolution to revoke the agency's endangerment finding. He also lauded Senate majority leader Reid's decision to omit the cap-and-trade programme from the energy bill.

The House of Representatives

Ed Markey: the representative of Massachusetts has been called the greatest environmental champion in Congress. This liberal Democrat introduced 2008's Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, which would have established an economy-wide cap-auction-and-trade system. He also co-authored the Waxman-Markey American Climate Energy and Security Bill, which called for economy-wide cap-and-trade mechanisms. Markey serves as chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, created in January 2007 by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

Henry Waxman: among the most influential members of Congress, this California Democrat became chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee in January 2009, defeating the incumbent, John Dingell, an auto-industry advocate who had prevented passage of bills to tighten carbon-emissions standards. Waxman co-authored the 1990 Clean Act Amendments, which addressed air pollution, acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer, and was a driving force behind the Energy Policy Acts of 1992 and 2005. In 2006, he introduced legislation that would have established emissions targets to reduce climate change. He also co-authored the Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House in June 2009.

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