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Sweeping climate-energy bill clears first big hurdle in Congress

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Some see it as a recipe for disaster – too big for Capitol Hill to swallow. But it appears the 946-page bill may achieve safe passage this year. If it does, it may be because Mr. Waxman spent weeks behind closed doors compromising and doling out valuable emissions allowances to industry and consumers to soften the blow of higher electricity rates.

Some environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and others say there has been one compromise too many.

“We’re disappointed we can’t support the bill,” says Nick Berning, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth. “There just was not enough in it to reduce pollution while billions were given to big oil, dirty coal.”

Yet others read the compromises as adding political strength, paving the way for tougher future measures.

“This vote showed [that] the nation has reached a major tipping point on energy and climate,” says Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, an energy research and consulting firm. “Historically, the problem has always been getting this kind of environmental bill through Congress the first time. After that, the laws just ratchet tighter.”

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