Even as their colleagues place roadblocks on energy reform, several members of the U.S. Senate are attempting to strengthen the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the green economy legislation passed by the House of Representatives this June. As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) take the lead to write the Senate draft, many of their fellow senators are fighting back against the armies of lobbyists and paid “grassroots” rallies of the oil and coal companies:
EMISSIONS LIMITS: Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are calling for the legislation to strengthen its 2020 target for greenhouse pollution reductions to 20 percent below 2005 levels, instead of the current 17 percent target. “I like the House bill, don’t get me wrong,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). “But I think we can do better.” Lautenberg told reporters: “That’s the objective, as far as I’m concerned, because the glide path has to be established that enables us to get to 80 percent in 2050. You can’t get there unless you start aggressively pushing.”
GREEN TRANSPORTATION: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is working to strengthen the bill’s funding for green transportation, pushing language that would “devote a guaranteed share of revenues from carbon regulation to transit, bike paths, and other green modes of transport.” The Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (S. 575 / H.R. 1329) would auction ten percent of carbon market allowances for clean transit improvement. Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have co-sponsored the legislation.
COAL POLLUTION: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is working with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to add language to “regulate power plant emissions of mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.”
CARBON MARKET REGULATION: Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have introduced legislation to “prevent Enron-like fraud, manipulation and excessive speculation” in the carbon market that the ACES Act would establish. Boxer has told reporters she intends to include the Feinstein-Snowe language in her legislation.
RENEWABLE STANDARD: In February, Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation (S. 433) to set a federal standard of 25% renewable electricity by 2025, much stronger than the House bill. “The bill’s not perfect, but it is a beginning,” Mark Udall recently told reporters. “The Senate now has to work its bill, and there are a number of elements we could put in the Senate bill that would improve the House bill including passing a [stronger] renewable electricity standard for the nation.” Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have cosponsored the legislation.
GREEN MANUFACTURING JOBS: Sen. Sherrod Brown‘s (D-OH) Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act creates a “$30 billion Manufacturing Revolving Loan Fund to help small and medium-sized manufacturers finance retooling, shift design, and improve energy efficiency.” The IMPACT Act has been added to the Senate legislation. Ten Democratic senators, led by Sens. Brown and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), have urged President Obama to ensure the legislation includes “strong provisions to ensure the strength and viability of domestic manufacturing,” including a “border adjustment mechanism” if “other major carbon emitting countries fail to commit to an international agreement requiring commensurate action on climate change.” Brown and Stabenow are supported by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Casey (D-PA), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Robert Byrd (D-VW), and Al Franken (D-MN).
A number of senators have committed to passing strong climate and clean energy legislation, including Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is “optimistic we can turn energy potential into reality and help create new job opportunities at home by producing more clean energy in the United States.” After telling a global warming skeptic that “climate change is very real,” Stabenow was eviscerated by the right wing. Both Brown and Specter have committed to voting against a Republican filibuster of climate legislation — a key move for President Obama’s progressive energy agenda.
After Boxer introduces her draft of the legislation in the beginning of September, the bill must pass out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has a strong Democratic majority with many liberal Democrats. “The move on the Senate floor will be rightward,” Sen. Whitehouse noted. “And therefore, we’ve got to do our job to keep as many possibilities open for the floor as possible.”
From 1Sky’s Skywriter:
COAL PLANT GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATION: “The EPA has to have authority to regulate coal plants under the Clean Air Act,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has promised “to use every bit of persuasive power” she can to ensure the bill “reflects the needs of New York.”