Senate bill tougher on emissions


Plan calls for deeper cuts earlier than House version

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are pushing for a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 – deeper than what the House has passed and what President Barack Obama wants – according to a long-awaited bill that will test how serious the U.S. is about slowing global warming.

The Democratic bill is to be released today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with a vote by the panel likely in late October.

House Democrats could win passage of only a 17 percent emission cut by 2020 and Obama originally had sought only a 14 percent cut. However, aides who worked on the Senate version said it includes measures that will make the Senate’s target easier to achieve and cheaper for consumers.

The bill obtained by the Associated Press remains subject to change. But the overall carbon reduction requirements are expected to stand.

The bill includes an economy-wide cap and trade system that would require power plants, industrial facilities and refineries to cut carbon dioxide and other climate-changing pollution. While there would be an overall emission cap, polluters would be able to purchase emission allowances to limit reductions.

The 800-page bill calls for a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions beginning in three years, to be tightened annually so that emissions would be 20 percent lower in 2020 than they were in 2005. Emissions would have to be 83 percent lower by 2050. While the long-term cuts are the same as required by the House in June, the Senate bill has bigger early targets, something many in industry oppose.

Democratic aides said information released since the House acted shows the 20 percent reduction by the end of the next decade will be easier to meet. U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide are 6 percent lower than what they were in 2005, a reduction attributed largely to the economicrecession, according to the Energy Department.

The bill includes provisions that its sponsors argue would help avoid energy price spikes as the economy shifts more and more away from cheaper fossil fuels, especially coal for electricity production. It would hold emission allowances in reserve so they can be made available if energy prices soar, said the Democratic aides who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the bill’s release.

Republicans, with few exceptions, have voiced strong opposition to cap-and-trade climate legislation calling it a massive energy tax on consumers as energy prices increase in the shift away from fossil fuels. Many centrist Democrats – especially from rural areas and from states with energy intensive industries – have expressed reluctance to support a bill that does not protect against energy cost spikes and protect domestic industries.

Click here to comment on this story »