The House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 21 approved an ambitious energy/global warming bill by a 33-25 vote, largely along party lines. The massive bill—more than 930 pages—is the result of weeks of hearings and negotiations in the House and is supported by a wide range of environmental groups, corporations and electric utilities and energy companies. But the bill’s ultimate prospects are uncertain. The legislation still has numerous critics, and must be approved by the Ways and Means and other House committees before it can move to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, the Senate does not have a comparable bill.
Overall, the bill, introduced by committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 83% by 2050.
After the panel voted in favor of the bill, Rep. Markey said, “In just eight weeks, chairman Waxman and I, working with our entire committee, have moved us further down the path toward energy independence than our country had moved in the past eight years.”
The bill would implement a cap and trade system; require utilities to generate 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2020; require the Environmental Protection Agency to develop an incentive program to support the commercial use of carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and includes a number of provisions to improve energy efficiency in buildings. Among them: a requirement that the Secretary of Energy support code-setting organizations to establish building codes that achieve 30% higher energy efficiency targets in 2010 and 50% higher targets by 2016; and the establishment of a program to develop standards and processes for retrofitting existing residential and non-residential buildings. The bill would also establish a building labeling program through the EPA.
Additionally, the legislation would direct the president to work with the Dept. of Transportation, EPA and California to harmonize the federal fuel economy standards; any emissions standards developed by EPA and the California standards for light-duty vehicles.
Moreover, states would be required to establish goals for greenhouse reductions from the transportation sector and impose sanctions on states that fail to submit goals or plans.
A wide variety of organizations support the bill, ranging from Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, the Edison Electric Institute, Chicago-based Exelon, BP America, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
But critics contend that the bill would cost thousands of jobs, particularly in the auto industry in Michigan. A study by the American Council of Capital Formation of the failed Lieberman-Warner Climate Change bill debated during the last session of Congress found that Michigan would have lost up to 121,786 jobs by 2030 if the bill were enacted into law. During the markup of the bill, Committee Chairman Waxman tried to quell concerns—mainly from Republicans—over potential job losses, noting that the bill includes funding for training for dislocated workers.
In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), says she plans to hold a series of hearings on the Waxman-Markey bill soon after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess.