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Climate-Change Bill Introduced

Draft legislation launches House debate on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions

by Jeffrey W. Johnson
April 6, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 14

Credit: Courtesy of Edward Markey's Office
Waxman (left) and Markey are leading the charge for climate-change legislation.
Credit: Courtesy of Edward Markey's Office
Waxman (left) and Markey are leading the charge for climate-change legislation.

HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and energy subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) released their much-awaited draft climate-change bill last week. The 648-page draft will be the basis for hammering out conflicting congressional perspectives on greenhouse gas reductions in the months ahead.

The draft bill provides incentives for a wide range of energy-related technologies—renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration, clean fuels and vehicles, electricity transmission, energy efficiency, and green jobs. At the draft's heart, however, are reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

The bill would cut CO2 emissions to 3% below 2005 levels by 2012, 20% by 2020, and 83% by 2050. It would cover electric utilities, chemical and oil companies, and other industrial sources that are responsible for 85% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. It dodges the thorny issue of whether some pollution allowances should be initially given away free to high-CO2-emitting industries, saying the issue will be addressed in upcoming House discussions.

The draft blocks EPA from regulating CO2 under the Clean Air Act, which the agency is now considering.

Generally, energy companies, environmental groups, and others have welcomed the draft as a "good first step" that each stakeholder will try to modify to its liking. Waxman and Markey say they intend to have a final bill ready by May.

House committee leaders—representing industrial, rural, and urban areas—appear to support the need for climate-change legislation even if their opinions differ on the details. In a recent letter to President Barack Obama, Reps. Waxman, Markey, John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), and Rick C. Boucher (D-Va.) urged passage of climate-change legislation to provide the clarity needed to encourage private-sector industrial and energy investments.

The congressmen compared today's legislation with a similar large-scale environmental bill from 20 years ago: In the stinging debate over the Clean Air Act, industry estimated its costs at $100 billion per year. Still, they noted, the House passed strong clean-air legislation by a vote of 401-25, and compliance costs to cut sulfur dioxide emissions dropped from an estimated $1,500 per ton to an actual $250 per ton.



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