Democratic lawmakers who spent much of the Bush administration blasting officials for letting energy lobbyists write national policy have turned to a coalition of business and environmental groups to help draft their own sweeping climate bill.
And one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition's co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, both of California, were among the Democrats -- then in the minority -- who slammed Vice President Dick Cheney for holding closed-door meetings to draft energy policy early in the Bush administration.
Republicans "invited energy lobbyists to write the energy bill that gouges consumers with big payoffs to Big Gas and Big Oil," Mrs. Pelosi said in 2005. "They have turned Washington, D.C., into an oil and gas town when it is supposed to be the city of innovation, of new, of fresh ideas about our energy policy."
But the sweeping climate bill Mr. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the panel's key environmental subcommittee, introduced at the end of March includes a provision that benefits Duke Energy Corp., a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), whose climate plan released in January the lawmakers have frequently called a "blueprint" for their climate legislation.
The exemption would save Duke Energy -- along with other firms now building new coal power plants -- from having to spend millions of dollars outfitting its Cliffside, N.C., power plant currently under construction with "clean coal" technology.
"The USCAP companies must be delirious over the freebies that they've received after writing the blueprint for [the House draft bill]," said Larry Neal, deputy Republican staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
At the kickoff to hearings last week on the massive climate bill, Myron Ebell, climate and energy policy director for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told lawmakers, "The authors of the draft bill have invited the beneficiaries of what could turn out to be the biggest transfer of wealth from consumers to special interests in American history to write the rules for this legalized plunder."….