House releases draft climate change bill

31 March 2009 — House Democrats released a draft climate change bill that would set a cap-and-trade program curbing emissions 20 percent beneath 2005 levels by 2020 with an 83 percent target by 2050.

The 648-page draft was released from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

Waxman said he wants his committee to clear an energy and climate change bill by the end of May. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes the Senate can approve a bill this summer.

The House draft establishes a market-based program for reducing global warming pollution from electric utilities, oil companies, large industrial sources and other covered entities that the legislation says are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. global warming emissions. Under this program, covered entities must have tradable federal allowances for each ton of pollution emitted into the atmosphere.

Titled the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” the bill also would create a national renewable energy portfolio standard that reaches 25 percent by 2025. This goal represents a sharper initial reduction goal (14 percent) than that proposed by President Barack Obama when his budget was released in February.

One issue left unaddressed by the discussion draft is how to allocate the tradable emission allowances that restrict the amount of global warming pollution emitted by electric utilities among others. This issue will be addressed during congressional debate, according to the draft summary.

The draft promotes renewable energy by requiring retail electricity suppliers to meet a certain percentage of their load with electricity generated from renewable resources, like wind, biomass, solar and geothermal. The renewable electricity requirement begins at 6 percent in 2012 and rises to 25 percent in 2025.

The draft also supports development of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. Support would includes incentives for the wide-scale commercial CCS deployment as well as performance standards for new coal-fired power plants.

The draft provides that CO2 and other greenhouse gases may not be regulated as criteria pollutants or hazardous air pollutants on the basis of their effect on global warming. It also provides that New Source Review does not apply to these global warming pollutants.

Also covered in the bill are Smart Grid and transmission provisions, standards for energy efficient appliances, fuel standards for automobiles and grants for electric vehicle research.

Separately in the House of Representatives, four panel chairmen told President Obama last week that energy and climate change legislation should not be attached to a budget bill so a potential Senate filibuster can be avoided. The letter, signed by Waxman and others, said using the budget reconciliation process could arouse regional distrust among legislators, making an agreement harder to reach.

Stories of interest:

Special Report: Executive Roundtable on Renewable Energy

Obama set to turn the US energy sector on its head

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