Sanders: ‘I Do Not Want To See A Global Warming Bill Become A Bonanza For The Coal Industry’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has expressed “deep disappointment” with the direction Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is heading with climate legislation being crafted with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). In a letter to Kerry, the Vermont independent praised Kerry’s “continued leadership” as a “tireless advocate for taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” However, Sanders has “serious concerns about provisions that could harm our environment and provide new federal government support for polluters”:

State Preemption: “In my view, preempting leading states would be a huge mistake: we should definitely set a floor, but not a ceiling.”

Support for New Nuclear Power: “If the private sector will not finance new nuclear plants, the government should not risk taxpayer dollars by stepping in.”

Offshore Drilling: “We should not, in a global warming bill, support increased offshore drilling.”


Coal Plant Emissions: “Global warming legislation should move us forward by requiring coal plants to meet increasingly stringent pollution standards. It should not take us backwards by exempting coal plants from this kind of regulation by grandfathering in the dirtiest plants so they can continue to operate for years to come.”

Ten other senators have challenged new support for offshore drilling in the bill. Sanders also called for several green economy initiatives to be in the legislation, including green jobs and energy efficiency funding that was included in the Kerry-Boxer climate bill that passed out of the Senate environment committee last December. That legislation limited EPA and state authority to set rules for global warming pollution, but it appears that Kerry-Graham-Lieberman could go even farther to preempt existing law with a new framework, leading Sanders to warn, “I do not want to see a global warming bill become a bonanza for the coal industry.”

Sanders’ concerns mirror those of Mike Brune, the new executive director of the Sierra Club, who told The Hill:

We will go to the mat for defending Clean Air Act authority. We are also concerned about offshore oil drilling, and we will not be able to accept the dramatic giveaway that offshore oil drilling represents.

Climate legislation will, by discouraging global warming pollution, support existing low-carbon energy technologies like renewables, natural gas, and nuclear power, and will also create a market for advanced coal technology. The coal, gas, and nuclear industries certainly do not need an additional layer of taxpayer subsidies to thrive in a low-carbon future. However, they have the resources to make clean energy reform an arduous process unless their demands are met, especially if, as Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard argues, Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are “neglecting the Senate’s environmental champions.”

Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.