Climate Change Bills Proliferate in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC, May 30, 2008 (ENS) – Congress will consider climate change legislation in a variety of forms next week when legislators return to Washington. Both House and Senate have bills to work with and changes to measures previously introduced.

A measure that would reduce greenhouse gases according to scientific targets and reinvest any revenue to create American jobs and fund research and development was given its first public airing on Wednesday by Congressman Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

At a speech at the Center for American Progress, Markey, who chairs the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources committees, laid out his science and consumer-based vision for climate legislation.

“I am here today because the chorus for change is deafening. The time for action is now,” said Markey. “We must cap pollution, we must invest in consumers, jobs and the technology of tomorrow, and America must lead the world in solving our greatest challenges, and we must start now.”

The bill is called the Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, or iCAP for short, the small “i” a tip of the cap to the technological potential of clean energy, Markey explained. The bill will be introduced next week when Congress is back in session.

The legislation offers what Markey calls “a new paradigm in global warming legislation – the Cap-and-Invest system.”

The coal-fired Pleasant power plant in
coal-rich West Virginia is operated
by Reliant Energy. (Photo by
Stefan Schlöhmer)

The bill caps pollution at 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. It then establishes an auction system that sets a price on carbon dioxide, CO2, emissions, and allows companies to compete for reductions, or buy or trade credits within the system.

The measure takes $8 trillion in revenues that Markey expects polluters will pay to emit greenhouse gases over the length of the bill, and reinvests that money back to American families and workers and into promoting a clean energy economy.

More than half of the funds generated by the cap and invest system would go back to low and middle income American families to offset any increases in energy their costs as the economy transitions to low or zero-carbon energy sources, Markey explained..

iCAP invests in green collar job training for workers in a clean energy economy, mass transit and smart growth, energy efficiency programs, adaptation measures here in and around the world.

“We must invest in the American economy and in American workers, and launch an energy technology renaissance that will rival the information technology revolution of the past decade,” said Markey. “We all benefited from the Industrial Age, and we have watched the dawn of the Information Age. Today, let’s start the Clean Energy Age.”

In the Senate, a greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade bill by John Warner, a Virginia Republican and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, will be debated on Monday.

It has been revised by the addition of an amendment by Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Boxer Substitute Amendment to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act allows a declining amount of greenhouse gas emissions between 2012 and 2050, reducing them by about two percent per year from 2005 levels.

The amendment would reduce emissions from covered facilities 19 percent below current levels by 2020, and 71 percent by 2050. It is estimated to reduce total U.S. emissions from all sources, capped and non-capped by up to 66 percent by 2050.

The amendment sets aside a nearly $800 billion tax relief fund through 2050, which will help consumers in need of assistance related to energy costs.

The National Association of Clean Air Agencies, representing air pollution control agencies in 53 states and territories and over 165 metropolitan areas, endorsed the amendment in a letter to Boxer on Thursday because it preserves the rights of states and localities to develop standards, limitations, prohibitions, requirements or caps beyond the federal program.

“Retaining the ability of states and localities to serve as laboratories of innovation, as well as to take whatever steps they deem necessary to best protect human health and welfare in their respective jurisdictions, is imperative,” wrote association co-presidents Andrew Ginsburg and Ursula Kramer in their letter.

The ability of California to regulate its own greenhouse gas emissions and those of 17 other states under the Clean Air Act has been blocked this year by the refusal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to waive weaker federal standards.

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