AUGUSTA – Greg Kimber knows his U.S. senators care about the environment, but he’s upset that they haven’t done more to pass a comprehensive energy measure addressing climate change and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s frustration with the whole Senate,” Kimber said.

On Wednesday, the Temple native and eight other Mainers protested outside the Augusta offices of Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

“At points in their history, they have had an environmental conscience and understanding, so I think they could have been senators that could have pushed for it or done more,” Kimber said in an interview Friday.

The U.S. House passed a bill last year that included a national cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions, but the Senate has yet to bring forward a parallel measure.

Snowe and Collins are widely viewed as “get-able” Republican votes on the issue. While each has offered ideas for a climate measure, they have resisted signing on to the most popular Senate proposal, drafted by John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut.

Snowe said that as long as a year ago, she suggested that a carbon-capping measure should focus on the utility sector, similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in which Maine participates.

“Confine it to utilities — Maine is part of the RGGI and it’s worked exceptionally well,” she said in a recent interview. “Maine coupled it with investments in efficiency and has kept the rates down. So already you’ve got a model.”

Collins is the only Republican to sign on to a comprehensive energy bill, having crafted a bipartisan measure that includes many of the same goals as the Kerry-Lieberman version.

Beyond the environmental benefits, Collins said, passing a comprehensive measure would help Maine economically.

“It’s an opportunity to help transform Maine’s economy, to make us a net exporter of energy rather than an importer of energy,” she said in a recent interview. “I want the state of Maine to be the world leader in deep-water wind technology, and the best way to bring that about is twofold. One, it’s supporting federal investments in the University of Maine and the consortium’s research and development; and two, is for clean energy legislation to pass that helps us transition from polluting fossil fuel-based energy to clean energy.”

However, both Snowe and Collins voted recently for a resolution that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions. The Republican-sponsored resolution failed, and the EPA will move forward with regulations in January if Congress does not act.

Tom Tietenberg, a retired economics and environmental studies professor from Colby College, is a leading expert in carbon trading. He said a federal cap-and-trade law is inevitable. It’s just a matter of when it gets enacted, and how much environmental damage occurs before Congress acts.

“One of the things that we’ve learned by studying this is that delay costs money,” he said. “I’m disappointed not only from the point of view from the planet, but I’m disappointed from the point of view from economics, because I think we’re digging ourselves into a deeper hole that will take us longer and more resources to get out of.”

In cap-and-trade, those who exceed established emission limits can buy “credits” from those who don’t pollute as much.

Tietenberg, who serves on the board of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Efficiency Maine Trust, said cap-and-trade shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“As sort of a political independent, I’m very disappointed that this has become a partisan issue, because it seems to me that saving the planet is something that everybody ought to be concerned about,” he said. “The science is relatively clear.”

Tietenberg echoed Kimber’s disappointment with the role that Snowe and Collins have played on the issue.

“They have both been active generators of ideas that I think actually have influenced the national process,” he said. “Would I like to see more? Yes. It’s going to be inevitable and highly desirable to do something about climate change, and they are in a position to do more than most people are.”

Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the Washington, D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters, said the group doesn’t regret endorsing Collins over Tom Allen, her Democratic opponent in the 2008 U.S. Senate race.

“She’s been a longtime champion on energy and global warming and a number of other environmental issues. Ultimately, I guess she ended up being the only Republican who is officially on a climate bill,” Sittenfeld said.

Democratic leadership recently announced plans to take up a modified energy bill after the Senate returns from recess in mid-September. The bill would include renewable energy standards, as well as new offshore oil drilling safety regulations. Both Snowe and Collins have said they support such measures.

Kimber said he’d just like to see lawmakers do something.

“We’ve got an emergency on the horizon globally,” he said, “and whatever angles we can take to address it, we should be going for.”

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

rmetzler@centralmaine.com