The new Republican senator from Massachusetts never hid his opposition to the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill, but Scott Brown is feeling pressure from back home to get onboard Senate’s stalled climate bill.
More than 50 clean energy business leaders from companies throughout Massachusetts signed a letter Wednesday urging Brown to work across state and party lines to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
Brown’s Bay State colleague, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has taken the lead in recent months in attempting to broker legislation that could pass the Senate that would curb the carbon emissions blamed for global climate change. Kerry has been working across the aisle to craft legislation with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Climate legislation has been stalled out in the Senate for most of the last year. The House narrowly approved a climate and energy bill last summer, sending the measure over to the Senate for action. The legislation, which would create a national cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions, has gone nowhere in the Senate, however.
The letter from Bay State business leaders urges Brown to support the climate bill based on its ability to create jobs.
“Massachusetts already has a small but vibrant cluster of committed clean energy investors, entrepreneurs, and growing companies,” says Nick d’Arbeloff, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, a business coalition. “If Congress puts a price on carbon, this cluster will benefit tremendously, enabling the Commonwealth to become a leader in creating jobs to provide clean energy solutions to the global marketplace.”
The letter goes on to say that, “today, the United States is falling behind in the global race to lead the new clean energy economy. In order for American business to unleash a new industrial revolution in energy, we need cooperative and coordinated action in the public policy and business arenas. We are ready to compete in the global marketplace, and we urge you to act so that we can win the race for a new clean energy economy. We stand ready to work with you to build this vital and growing economic sector.”
Brown pulled an upset victory Jan. 19, becoming the first member of the GOP to be elected to represent Massachusetts in the Senate in more than three decades. Since he entered the Senate in February, Brown largely has supported the Republican agenda. But he has also promised to cross party lines and work with Democrats. Brown last month made news when he broke ranks with Republicans to support a Democratic jobs bill — and convinced several other GOP senators to follow him on that vote.
Kerry and other supporters of enacting a climate bill realize they need some substantial Republican support to pass a bill in the Senate because several Democrats — notably coal-state Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia — have come out against the climate bill under discussion.
President Obama wants to enact cap-and-trade, and last week agreed to open new offshore areas to oil and gas drilling, reportedly in a gambit to entice conservative senators to embrace climate regulation.
“We believe Massachusetts is an excellent environment in which to build an innovative, clean energy business,” says Tim Healy, chairman and CEO of EnerNOC, an energy technology provider. “In the six years since founding our company in Massachusetts, our business alone has created nearly  jobs for the Commonwealth; if Congress passes comprehensive climate legislation, we would expect to see such job creation accelerate significantly.”
Brown could be vulnerable to political pressure, given that this year he was elected only to serve the remainder of the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy’s term. Brown must face voters again in 2012.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.