Major Climate Hearings Start Today On Capitol Hill As Administration Makes ‘Green’ Announcements

With a clearer picture on health care, the Obama administration and Congress today are pivoting toward climate change legislation.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee began hearings this hour on Chairman Barbara Boxer’s bill, with President Obama’s Green Cabinet expected to testify.

Obama, meanwhile, is at a Florida solar power plant this morning announcing stimulus funds for a major investment in smart grid technology. An Obama aide tells TPMDC the president will talk about building the infrastructure for a clean energy economy.

Vice President Biden will be making an announcement at a General Motors plant in Delaware that is reopening to make hybrid vehicles.

With just over a month before climate change negotiations begin in Copenhagen, environmental advocacy groups have been pressuring the White House and Congress to take action so world leaders have a framework to build upon.Administration officials have stressed for weeks they are comfortable with negotiators using the House-passed bill as a starting point, but the activists closest to the issue say that’s not enough.

Testifying today are Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Climate chief Lord Stern last week in London suggested he wasn’t worried about whether Obama would personally attend the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

“These meetings are always structured, just as Kyoto, to be held at ministerial level. We are not writing anything off or foreclosing possibilities but we treat this as a ministerial meeting in the first instance and if the kind of progress is made that would warrant the attendance of leaders then certainly we would consider that,” Stern said.

With health care ramping up, it’s unlikely the climate bill would reach the Senate floor this year. (The 923-page bill is posted here if you want to read it.)

Here’s Boxer (D-CA) previewing the hearings: