Senate Democrats Push for a Climate Change Bill

On June 25, the House passed the American Climate and Energy Security (ACES) Act by a 219 to 212 vote. ACES calls for a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. Yesterday, Senate Democrats in Senate began to push a Senate the climate change bill.

The House bill (ACES) calls for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. It would create a cap-and-trade program which would require U.S. industries to purchase emissions permits.

Some environmental groups criticized ACES. Greenpeace called it a piece of legislation “already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March and has become severely worse.” Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA Executive Director, issued the following statement about the House bill:

“Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state. We call on President Obama and leaders in Congress to get back to work and produce a bill, based on science, which presents a clear road map for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforms our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, generates new green jobs and shows real leadership internationally.”

Friends of the Earth (FOE) criticized ACES because it would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s current authority to reduce GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. FOE called the cap-and-trade system ACES would create “flawed,” and stated that it would “undermine investment in technology development.”

FOE also criticized ACES for lacking “significant penalties for corporations that violate it,” unlike the Clean Air Act. If the cap-and-trade system experiences problems, “the EPA will not be allowed to step into the breach.”

David Hamilton of the Sierra Club questioned the effectiveness of ACES cap-and-trade system, but hoped that environmental groups would be successful in pushing for a better Senate bill. "Do, at some point, we try to bank what the politics allows?" Hamilton said. "Our judgment in this case is that we're going to keep trying with the bill" in the Senate.

Frank O’Donnell of the Clean Air Watch said “We’re saying it sure as heck ought to get better in the Senate, or it’s going to be a sorry day.”

Democratic House members who voted for the bill expressed their objections to it. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) said, in a statement, ACES “might make the problem worse.” He listed aspects of the bill he thinks are problematic:

  1. Overall targets are too weak.
  2. The offsets undercut the emission reductions.
  3. It delays significant emissions reductions.
  4. EPA’s authority to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded.
  5. Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.
  6. Dirty Coal is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.
  7. The $60 billion allocated for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is triple the amount of money for basic research and development in the bill.
  8. Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial crisis.
  9. It is regressive. Free allocations doled out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests.
  10. The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is not an improvement. The 15% RES standard would be achieved even if we failed to act.
  11. Dirty energy options qualify as “renewable.”
  12. It undermines our bargaining position in international negotiations in Copenhagen and beyond.
  13. International assistance is much less than demanded by developing countries.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) issued a statement saying he couldn't support the bill as written because “it is too weak to greatly spur new technologies and green jobs.”


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