New carbon bill emerges as select committee convenes

Source: Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, March 29, 2019

The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis gathered this morning to shoot down a series of Republican amendments to its rules during the panel’s first formal meeting.

It came as Democrats introduced a new carbon pricing bill, yet another sign of just how much the caucus wants to talk about climate.

The select committee is tasked with issuing a report recommending policies to combat climate change by March 2020. It will start that work in earnest next week with its first hearing, which is expected to focus on how climate change affects young people.

While the tone at today’s organizational meeting was generally jovial, all signs suggest the report won’t be issued without some bickering.

Republicans offered a series of amendments to require specific quantifications in the report, which they said should take a holistic view of how climate policy affects the economy.

Several proposals would have required various measurements of economic impacts of climate policies, while another from Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) would have required the report to lay out how its policy recommendations affect global temperatures and sea-level rise.

Democrats voted them all down. Chairwoman Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) argued they would be unnecessary constraints on the committee’s work.

“We’re going to be open to so many different types of analysis,” Castor told reporters after the hearing.

“The trouble we have now is time is short,” she added. “We’ve got to act with urgency. We don’t have time to waste and spin our wheels.”

Still, the tone was friendly, and Castor and several other members offered calls for bipartisanship.

Ranking member Garret Graves (R-La.) peppered in jokes throughout the hearing and engaged in a friendly debate on the rules with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).

Castor said she expects the panel to hold plenty of field hearings to examine the effects of climate change across the country.

The rules package passed by voice vote.

Another carbon pricing bill

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) gathered at an event this morning to reintroduce their carbon fee and dividend bill, the “Healthy Climate and Family Security Act.”

The bill would establish a carbon trading program through the Treasury Department, capping carbon dioxide emissions and requiring refiners, importers and coal mines to purchase carbon permits. Dividends from auctioned allowances would be returned to U.S. citizens.

The measure would also give EPA authority to regulate all man-made carbon emissions, except those from animals raised for food. It aims to slash CO2 releases at least 80 percent by 2040 compared with 2005 levels.

The bill is one of many carbon pricing proposals floating around Capitol Hill, and its sponsors suggested this morning that they’re happy to have as many on the table as possible.

Beyer even predicted that the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees would hold hearings on carbon pricing in the coming months.

House leaders have generally stayed away from specific proposals to address climate change, given that they could divide the Democratic caucus and would be unlikely to pass the Republican Senate.

But Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has said he wants to hold hearings on energy and climate issues early in this Congress (E&E Daily, Jan. 30).

There’s little serious talk about pricing carbon on the Senate side, but Van Hollen will likely be joined soon by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who are expecting to reintroduce their carbon fee bill this year.

“I believe there are lots of ways to get a price on carbon,” Van Hollen said. “We need to move in that direction, but I will say one benefit of this approach is that it is set by the market, and we have a lot of protections in the bill to make sure the market is contained and people can’t game it.”

Reporter Manuel Quiñones contributed.