Democrats plan all-night talkfest on Senate floor

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, February 17, 2014

Senate Democrats plan to pull an all-nighter on the Senate floor next month to highlight the need for climate action.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced the plan earlier this week on a call with activists from Organizing for Action, a nonprofit created to promote President Obama’s priorities.

The purpose of the nocturnal talkathon is “to break the pattern of the Senate and show the interest of at least 20 senators who will be participating through the night,” Whitehouse said. He invited OFA members to support the event with online petitions.

The speeches, which are tentatively set for March 10, will be carried out by the Senate’s Climate Action Task Force, an all-Democrat coalition launched earlier this year. Like similar groups in the House, the new task force will focus on messaging rather than advancing legislation, according to co-chairs Whitehouse and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Whitehouse and others have spoken on the Senate floor and lobbied network television for better coverage of climate change (E&ENews PM, Jan. 16). Whitehouse said on the call that the task force is planning to invite climate activists to bring alarm clocks to the Capitol in May to demand that Congress “wake up” about the need for emissions legislation.

But while most observers say climate legislation of any kind will be a tough sell in the near future, Whitehouse told activists he was optimistic.

“I’m a climate hawk, and I’m very confident that we can win, and I’m very confident that we can win sooner than people think,” he said.

U.S. EPA’s plans to regulate new and existing power plants will help, he said, because they will show industry that the administration plans to act to control emissions with or without Congress. The cost of those regulations might bring utilities to the negotiating table, he said.

“Taking away their comfortable status quo of polluting for free is a really big deal and a possible deal changer,” he said.

EPA has insisted that the proposal for new power plants it unveiled last fall would have no net cost for utilities, because gas-fired power plants would have no difficulty meeting the standard and no coal-fired power plants are in the pipeline anyway.