Senate Committee approves diesel, carbon capture bills

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bills geared toward reducing diesel engine emissions and encouraging research into one form of carbon capture technology easily cleared a Senate panel this morning as their sponsors expressed optimism the measures will ultimately pass the full chamber.

On a single voice vote, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 383 and S. 747 with no audible dissent.

The latter bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), would reauthorize the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program through fiscal 2024 at a funding level of $100 million per year.

The program doles out grants and rebates to replace or retool school buses and other diesel-powered equipment with newer, less-polluting models.

The other measure, sponsored by EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and dubbed the “Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act,” would authorize $35 million for creation of an EPA direct air capture advisory board and to pay for design and demonstration projects aimed at sucking carbon from the air (E&E Daily, April 8).

Both bills have ample bipartisan support. “I always relish the times Sen. Carper and I can agree on something,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a co-sponsor of the DERA Act proposal, said during the 20-minute markup.

Similar versions of both measures won committee approval during the last Congress but then never advanced out of the Senate.

In brief interviews after today’s markup, however, Barrasso predicted “good” odds that the “USE IT” bill will pass the Senate this year.

Carper was likewise optimistic about the prospects for the DERA legislation even though two senators, Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), continue to question the need for the program.

“Persistence,” Carper replied when asked what he thought would make the difference, adding that Republicans as well as Democrats will be speaking to the two lawmakers.

Both bills may also benefit from support from a diverse array of interest groups. The “USE IT Act,” for example, has endorsements from the National Mining Association and the National Wildlife Federation, according to documents that Barrasso entered into the record today.

Along with a host of other business and environmental organizations that have already signaled support for the DERA measure, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce added its backing in a letter this week.

The program “has proven to be a model example of the cooperative, solutions-focused framework that is central to the Clean Air Act’s success,” the business lobby wrote in the letter posted on its website.

In the same voice vote today, EPW members also approved S. 1061, another bill introduced by Barrasso that would reauthorize appropriations for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.