Oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and ConocoPhillips will back new climate-change legislation in the U.S. Senate, according to people familiar with their plans.
Exelon Corp., the biggest U.S. utility owner, also supports the measure, and Chief Executive Officer John Rowe will be on hand when the bill is presented at a news conference on April 26, said Howard Riefs, a spokesman for the Chicago-based company.
Senators John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, have worked for months to get energy companies such as Shell and ConocoPhillips behind compromise legislation after a House-passed measure stalled.
General Electric Co. is among companies expressing interest while withholding judgment until the measure is in final form.
“From the little we do know, we believe it will be a step forward,” said Peter O’Toole, a spokesman for Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE, which produces equipment that generates one-third of the world’s electricity. “As for GE endorsing or having an opinion of any kind, we need to see the bill first.”
A representative of GE probably will attend the news conference, O’Toole said.
Also expected are Marvin Odum, president of U.S. operations for The Hague-based Shell, and Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy Corp., said the people, who asked not to be identified before the announcement.
Kerry said on a conference call last night that at least three of the five biggest oil companies will endorse the legislation, according to people with knowledge of the call. Kerry didn’t identify the companies, they said.
Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith declined to comment today on the call or on provisions of the legislation.
The House version of the legislation would have established a cap-and-trade program for almost every part of the U.S. economy, with carbon emissions limited and pollution allowances traded on a market. The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman compromise would start by placing carbon limits solely on electric utilities, with manufacturers covered later.
Oil companies would be given free pollution allowances that would expire by a certain date, after which allowances would have to be purchased, the people said.
The Edison Electric Institute, a Washington-based trade group representing the electric-utility industry, is also likely to back the measure, according to the people. Edison spokesman Jim Owen said the group hasn’t seen the legislation yet and “we’re not saying anything.”
“Shell believes that comprehensive energy and climate legislation is essential to meeting our growing demand for energy and that a national framework will help keep down the cost of doing business and provide the regulatory certainty that companies need,” company spokesman Ted Rolfvondenbaumen, said in an e-mailed statement.
Nancy Turner, a spokeswoman for Houston-based ConocoPhillips, said, “We have not yet seen the bill so therefore it is premature for us to comment.”
Tom Williams, a spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina- based Duke, declined to comment.
The legislation is drawing criticism from an environmental organization, Greenpeace USA. The group opposes a provision that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases and also suspend carbon-trading programs in the states.
The issue is a “line in the sand for many in the environmental movement,” Damon Moglen, director of the Greenpeace USA Global Warming campaign, said in an interview. Moglen was among participants on the conference call yesterday with Kerry.
-- With assistance from Rachel Layne in Boston, Jessica Resnick- Ault in New York, Edward Klump in Houston and Simon Lomax in Washington. Editors: Larry Liebert, Joe Winski