The Obama administration joined environmentalists Friday in heaping praise on Texas Democratic Reps. Charlie Gonzalez and Gene Green for helping climate change legislation win approval by a congressional committee.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the pair “courageous” for joining 30 other Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in voting for the roughly 1,000-page bill late Thursday.
With a relatively close vote of 33-25, the support from Green and Gonzalez was key — one reason panel Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., spent weeks negotiating with them on a plan to cushion refiners from the proposal’s financial cost.
Waxman’s agreement to give refiners 2 percent of an annual pool of valuable pollution permits helped seal the deal.
Both lawmakers represent congressional districts with major refining operations. Green’s territory includes refining plants along the Houston ship channel. The headquarters of refiners Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., are in San Antonio.
Gonzalez also secured changes designed to ensure a San Antonio power plant would eventually get some of the free permits — even though it won’t go online until late 2010.
Their support — despite the oil industry’s broad criticism of the climate change plan — could sway other oil-patch Democrats to back the bill when it is debated by the full House later this year.
Whatever the flaws of this bill, it’s vastly better than doing nothing, and it has enough support from environmentalist groups and progressive leaders to count it as a big win, with the hope for more improvement in the future. For that, I thank Reps. Green and Gonzalez for their work. May they inspire some of their “centrist” brothers and sisters in the Senate to get on board as well.