Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs Act Strengthens American Power

Boxer and KerryToday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, comprehensive legislation to stave off catastrophic global warming by investing in clean energy. This environment committee proposal, in concert with the renewable energy bill drafted by the energy committee, represents the Senate version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the green economy legislation passed by the House of Representatives this June. Incorporating the efforts of a number of senators, the Kerry-Boxer legislation has strengthened a number of provisions:

EMISSIONS LIMITS: As Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) requested, the 2020 target for greenhouse pollution reductions has been strengthened to 20 percent below 2005 levels, instead of Waxman-Markey’s 17 percent target. “At the end of the day, what happens early on is what’s most important, not what your goals are 50 years from now,” Sanders told E&E News. “That’s a significant step forward.” Reflecting the fact that emissions are already 8.5% below 2005 levels, these stronger standards will spur greater investment in clean-energy jobs.

GREEN TRANSPORTATION: Kerry-Boxer includes Sen. Tom Carper‘s (D-DE) push for green transportation, devoting “a guaranteed share of revenues from carbon regulation to transit, bike paths, and other green modes of transport.” The SmartWay Transportation Efficiency Program is modeled on the Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (S. 575 / H.R. 1329), co-sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

COAL PLANT GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATION: Kerry-Boxer follows Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand‘s (D-NY) call that “the EPA has to have authority to regulate coal plants under the Clean Air Act.”

Kerry-Boxer includes placeholder language for carbon market regulation, to be provided by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Sen. Boxer plans to hold hearings on the legislation over the following weeks, with the aim of reporting the bill out of committee by the end of the October.

At the behest of a bloc of senators from states with major natural gas reserves — Michael Bennet and Mark Udall (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Begich (D-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (D-LA), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Tom Udall (D-NM) — Kerry-Boxer also includes provisions that provide extra rewards for coal plant owners to switch to natural gas. Murkowski, Landrieu, Vitter, and Brownback are still expected to oppose the legislation as a job-killer.

Several senators, led by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO), are hoping to reform and strengthen the federal renewable energy standard included in the Energy Committee companion bill when debate reaches the Senate floor.

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.

Defenders of a pollution-based economy are already attacking the legislation. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) called the strengthened 2020 target “problematic” because of his state’s reliance on coal. “At a time when our businesses are struggling, when we want to create jobs, not lose jobs, I think this is a very bad bill at this particular time,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). She falsely claimed that “your home electricity bill will go up 90 percent because of this legislation.” In fact, the EPA estimates that electricity bills will go down.

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