Move Over Health Care, Congress has a New Climate Bill to Pick Apart

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Last week, the Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer introduced their version of a climate bill called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The title of the 800 + page bill, like the House American Clean Energy and Security Bill, does not use the terms “global warming” or “climate change”. Green Inc points out that this purposeful omission shows how politically contentious the topic of climate change remains and foreshadows continued struggle to reach agreement on a Senate bill.

Here are some of the highlights of this bill from Wonk Room, Grist and the Washington Post:

  • Emissions reductions targets are set at 20% below 2005 levels, which is stronger than the 17% target in the House bill.
  • There are provisions to use revenues from carbon regulation to promote “green transportation” including bike paths
  • The bill allows for EPA regulation of coal plants (as does the house bill) and also includes provision to reward coal plants that switch to producing natural gas as urged by Senators from states with large natural gas reserves (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, New Mexico).
  • In Kerry’s words: This system is tough on corporate pollution, taking aim at America’s largest polluters: those emitting 25,000 tons of carbon each year. The 7,500 facilities covered in 2012—mostly power plants, industrial facilities and petroleum and petrochemical operations—account for nearly three-quarters of America’s carbon emissions. Farmers and nearly all small business are exempt. More than 98 percent of all American businesses fall below the threshold.”
  • Report about the efforts in major polluting countries such as China and India on how they are fairing in their efforts to  cut emissions.

The response to the bill has been mixed.

Some prominent environmentalists are supporting the bills tougher emissions reduction target. Carl Pope, President of the Sierra Club, offered the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Senate bill sets a strong short-term target for carbon pollution reductions and retains E.P.A.’s authority to regulate global warming emissions”

Al Gore also applauded the bill in a statement that was eerily similar to President Obama’s

“I applaud the leadership of Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry and their committees’ efforts to advance historic comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation in the U.S. Congress…Today’s Senate action brings our nation one step closer to enacting the policies that will create new jobs and industries by repowering America with clean energy, bring meaningful cuts in global warming pollution, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil… America has the opportunity to lead the international community and enact a truly global response to the climate crisis.”

On the other side of the debate, criticism from the American Petroleum Institute and Senator Inhofe (R-OK) focused on the vagueness of the bill and its lack of attention to nuclear regulatory issues. Frank Maisano argued against the the provision to “tailor” regulations to target polluters of 25,000 tons, in his October 5 Energy Update. He states:

Most experts know it is not practical to regulate major sources of 250 tons or more – as the CAA says – and still be able to function.”

Personally, I think its a sign of progress that Senators Kerry and Boxer have introduced this bill when congress (and the country) is absorbed in the health care debate and the economic crisis. It will be interesting to see how far it gets before Copenhagen in December.

Update: Here is the Union of Concerned Scientists Summary of the Bill


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