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House Committee Release Draft Climate Bill

April 2, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Electrical Substation

If you read my climate change primer, you know that House leaders were expected to push for a comprehensive energy package, tying together a climate change bill and legislation for a renewable energy standard, changes to nations electrical grid, and energy efficiency. On Tuesday, a draft of that House package was released by the Energy and Commerce Committee. Drafted by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Md.), it weighs in at over 600 pages; you can grab the summary (PDF) here.

The basics: an aggressive push to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. through a cap-and-trade program. The government would auction permits for carbon emissions, and set a limit on the amount companies could pollute. Companies that pollute less could sell their permits to those that produce more emissions, and the government would use the proceeds from the permit auction to fund wildlife protection, energy efficiency and other programs. As years pass, fewer permits would be issued, with an overall goal of reducing emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, with further reductions after that.

Of course, the cap-and-trade plan is just one aspect of the bill, which also aims to promote clean energy production, develop a new
“smart” energy grid, and increase energy efficiency in homes, office building and on roadways. The idea, as I mentioned in the primer, is to create a bill containing a number of Democratic initiatives, making it harder for caucus members to vote against cap-and-trade.

With little Republican support expected for the bill, securing Democratic votes on the legislation will be a priority. The big question should, again, be in the Senate. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is against a package approach, preferring to move each bill on its own. In a twist, he’s argued that packaging the bills together makes it more likely to see everything go down in defeat.

Decisions will have to come soon: Reps. Waxman and Markey have laid out an ambitious timeline for committee work on the bill following the upcoming two-week spring recess, and it might hit the full floor for a vote by June.

For more details on the bill, definitely see Kate Sheppard’s post in Grist.

Image (used under a Creative Commons license) by The Joy Of The Mundane.

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