The House Democrats Climate proposal came out today. Below is a quick initial response which will be updated. I would appreciate any issues that you identify in the bill and report. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Quick Analysis of House Democrats Climate Bill (https://climatecrisis.house.gov/report)
By Mark Dunlea, Green Education and Legal Fund
The House Democrat climate bill released today reflects centrist Democratic Party positions on energy and climate. It establishes targets and approaches similar to the recent NYS climate bill (CLCPA), rather than the 2025/2030/2035 targets of more progressive climate groups like Green Party, XR, Climate Mobilization or Food and Water Watch. It does seek to meet the overall goals of the Paris accords, though it ignores that industrial countries and polluters – due to their large climate footprint – must move faster to reduce emissions than less polluting countries.
Like even the more progressive Democratic proposals (e.g., the initial Green New Deal proposal by Cong. Ocasio-Cortez), it does not call for a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines. It promotes bioenergy and major taxpayer investment in carbon capture and sequestration. It promotes cogeneration (p. 90).
Certainly, across the Board it is better than the climate denial approach of the GOP and Trump administration. It relies heavily on tweaking market forces and capitalism rather than public ownership and democratic control of the energy system.
For a 573-page report, it is vague on details (funding, timeless, action steps). It does not say much re a specific federal government role in the development of offshore wind (p. 149). It really does not say a lot re how to develop renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, air heat pumps) other than it supports its development and wants more tax credits and investment.
It does not call for a major overhaul of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The report does support action to address environmental justice and Just Transition concerns, though it does not set any goals or targets re levels of funding.
Some Media Analysis
NY Times Summary (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/climate/house-democrats-climate-plan.html)
It includes ensuring that every new car sold by 2035 emits no greenhouse gases, eliminating overall emissions from the power sector by 2040, and goes to net zero emissions by 2050.
Supports a carbon tax with a rebate to low- and moderate-income households.
The report says the government should prioritize minority communities for new spending on energy and infrastructure.
Last year, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York introduced her version the Green New Deal, which called for getting 100 percent of the country’s power from renewable and zero-emissions within 10 years. (Note: This version was weakened when Sen. Markey joined in the Senate) The Democratic leadership has sought to distance itself from AOC’s initial package.
The ranking Democrat, Garret Graves, touted “policies rooted in innovation lower the cost of energy, drive economic growth, and cut emissions”, without “increasing costs on working families” or adding “burdensome regulations”. He praised a “renaissance” in natural gas – a climate change contributor – for boosting a shift away from burning coal. And he pointed to China and developing nations as the sources of most emissions growth.
Leah Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California, noted that the Democrat proposal emphasizes the need for negative emissions technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide, ideas that have been favored by Republicans in the Senate. It also shows an openness to nuclear energy, which is often a sticking point for environmental advocates who say the power source – although zero-carbon – is still extractive.
Stokes said if the plan were enacted “we would have a hope of taking on the climate crisis at the scale and pace necessary”. At the same time, some advocates on the left began to criticize it as not serious enough.
“This is not an emergency response,” said Laura Berry, research director for The Climate Mobilization. Berry said the plan outlines a “leisurely, three-decade transition to a cleaner economy”.
According to Forbes, “At the heart of the proposal are billions in new subsidies and a federal mandate to achieve 100% renewables. The top item on the Democrats’ plan is, “Support rapid deployment of wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other zero-carbon energy sources and construction of new transmission infrastructure to deliver clean energy to homes.” (Overall the article is anti-renewable energy)
From Report https://climatecrisis.house.gov/report
Seeks to reduce net US Greenhouse gas emissions by 37% below 2010 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The remaining 12% of emissions comes from the hardest to decarbonize sectors, such as heavy-duty and off-road transportation, industry, and agriculture.
(In general, do not see any promotion of public ownership and democratic control of energy system. Very focused on private sector capitalism, not Eco socialism)
Energy efficiency and conservation
- 4 – POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should enact a Clean Energy Standard to achieve net-zero emissions in the electricity sector by 2040 and an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard to smooth out rising electricity demand from electrification and save consumers money on their power bills. Congress should extend and expand clean energy tax incentives and grant programs
p.5 – Build a cleaner and more resilient electricity sector to achieve net-zero emissions from power generation by 2040
Decarbonization of the electricity sector is the linchpin of any national strategy to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. Electrification of key end uses in the transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors will be essential to cut emissions from those sectors. (In general, supports major expanded investments in energy efficiency.)
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should expedite deployment of zero-emission technologies in the sectors where they are already available while making new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles as clean as possible. This should include setting strong greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars, heavy-duty trucks, and aviation; enacting a national sales standard to achieve 100% sales of zero emission cars by 2035 and heavy-duty trucks by 2040; and providing incentives to build out zero emission fueling infrastructure across the country.
(Problems – The report focuses on promoting private electric vehicles rather switching to mass transit. They propose a 2035 timeline for new cars to be zero emissions; Norway proposes 2025. However, on p. 111 – Double Federal Funding for Public Transit and promotes smart transportation choices. Not so good: P. 110: Direct EPA to Credit Electricity Generated From Renewable Biogas and Used to Power Electric Vehicles; Increasing Funding for DOE RD&D in Next-Generation Biofuels and Other Alternative Fuels)
Buildings – page 6
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should incentivize states and cities to adopt updated model building codes, including net-zero-emission building codes, and establish tax incentives for the construction of net-zero buildings, with the goal of making all new residential and commercial buildings net-zero emissions by 2030. Congress should require new federal buildings to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 as well. To reduce energy use and emissions from existing buildings, Congress should set benchmarking requirements for commercial buildings and encourage cities and states to adopt performance-based standards for buildings; provide incentives for energy efficiency improvements, onsite renewable energy generation, and electrification of end uses in buildings, such as space and water heating; invest in large-scale weatherization and efficiency in low-income and frontline communities; and require federal buildings to undergo deep energy retrofits, perform energy and emissions benchmarking, and meet ambitious energy use and emissions intensity targets.
(Note: California does new residences by 2020)
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should establish new standards for water infrastructure resilience that account for climate impacts, including more frequent and damaging floods, droughts, and erosion. Congress also should ensure robust public engagement in water infrastructure projects, particularly for environmental justice communities
(Note – does not oppose privatization of water systems)
Oil and Gas – page 7
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should set a national methane pollution reduction goal for the oil and gas sector of 65% to 70% by 2025 and 90% by 2030, relative to 2012 levels, and phase out routine flaring of methane. For pipelines, Congress should direct regulators to set new standards for pipeline operators to detect and repair methane leaks; provide financial support for cities and states to eliminate methane leaks from natural gas distribution lines within 10 years; and update the Federal Power Act to ensure FERC considers climate science and public input when siting new natural gas infrastructure. Congress also should close exemptions for the oil and gas industry in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Recovery and Conservation Act.
(Note: does not halt new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines)
Research – page 7
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should support all stages of climate-related innovation by recommitting to Mission Innovation—a global initiative working to accelerate global clean energy innovation—and boosting funding for federal clean energy research, development, and demonstration
(sounds like support for Carbon capture and sequestration)
Rebuild US industry – p. 8
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should establish performance standards to guarantee emissions reductions from industrial facilities and pair them with border adjustment mechanisms to level the playing field with foreign goods made with higher-polluting processes. To complement these standards, Congress should support research, development, and demonstration of breakthrough and platform technologies for industrial decarbonization, including carbon capture, utilization, and storage; provide firms in the industrial sector with access to revolving loan funds, grants, and tax incentives for efficiency upgrades, process changes, and retooling; develop infrastructure for key decarbonization technologies, including low- and zero-carbon hydrogen; and create markets for low emission goods through a federal Buy Clean program. Congress should facilitate the transition to a circular economy that eliminates waste and pollution by supporting research and development, infrastructure, and standards for materials efficiency, substitution, and recycling
POLICY TOPLINES: To jumpstart a direct air capture industry in the United States, Congress should dramatically increase federal investment in carbon removal research and development; improve financial incentives for direct air capture technology; expand demonstration projects to safely store carbon below ground; and create markets for fuels made from carbon captured from the atmosphere.
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should repeal tax breaks for large oil and gas companies as a first step toward building a fairer tax code that supports reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Congress also should put a price on carbon to correct the failure of the market to account for the costs of unmitigated pollution. Carbon pricing is not a silver bullet and should complement a suite of policies to achieve deep pollution reductions and strengthen community resilience to climate impacts. (page 9)
Page 9 – As it reauthorizes and considers new investments in clean infrastructure, Congress should commit federal funding only to projects that meet strong labor standards.
- 10 – POLICY TOPLINES:Environmental justicemust be at the center of federal climate and environmental policy.
(Note: avoids setting goals or mandates for level of funding for EJ communities)
Agriculture – p. 12
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should dramatically increase investments to support the efforts of America’s farmers and ranchers to employ climate stewardship practices. Congress also should incentivize farmers and ranchers to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy on-farm and protect their farmland from development and other non-agricultural uses. As part of a comprehensive approach, Congress also should support local and regional food systems and develop initiatives to combat food waste.
(Note: Avoids organic, regenerative or sustainable agriculture. Appears to promote bioenergy / expanded methane recapture, which leads to increased methane production)
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress must dramatically increase and provide stable federal investment in pre-disaster mitigation and resilient disaster recovery to strengthen infrastructure, support affordable and resilient housing, and help families, businesses, and communities that are seeking federal assistance to move out of the riskiest areas. Congress also must reform federal flood mapping and insurance programs to deliver forward-looking projections, help low-income households afford flood insurance, and expand coverage to reduce uninsured flood losses
Capture the full potential of natural climate solutions
Storing carbon in natural systems is a proven and cost-effective way to deliver large-scale carbon dioxide reductions and improve community and ecosystem resilience. By expanding protections for America’s lands, waters, and ocean, Congress can reverse decades of deforestation, bolster the capacity of nature to store carbon, and avert pollution from land disturbance and extractive activities.
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should establish a national goal of protecting at least 30% of all U.S. lands and ocean areas by 2030, prioritizing federal and nonfederal lands and waters with high ecological, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration value. Currently, just 12% of U.S. lands and 26% of the U.S. ocean—primarily marine monuments in the remote Western Pacific or northwestern Hawaii— are permanently protected
POLICY TOPLINES: Congress should direct federal land management agencies to develop a comprehensive public lands climate plan to achieve net-zero emissions on public lands and waters by 2040 at the latest. To achieve this goal, Congress should impose a moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases on public lands while ensuring robust economic development and worker transition assistance for communities dependent on fossil fuel extraction; prohibit new offshore oil and gas leasing in all areas of the Outer Continental Shelf; reduce methane pollution from oil and gas extraction; and increase renewable energy production. Additionally, Congress should protect wild and special places and make them off-limits to drilling and mining activities, including America’s last remaining wild landscapes, irreplaceable cultural sites, national parks and monuments, and important wildlife habitat and corridors. Congress should also eliminate unfair and expensive government subsidies for oil and gas drilling on public lands; establish and maintain robust environmental review of and bonding requirements for all proposed projects on public lands; and reclaim orphaned wells that pose a safety and environmental threat.
(Note: this seems stronger than their executive summary, which says limit new leasing on public lands onshore and offshore for fossil fuel extraction. The longer section says halt new leases on public land but seems to allow some off-shore)
Carbon pricing – page 304
The majority staff for the Select Committee offers the following principles for designing an effective and equitable carbon pricing system:
- Congress should establish a carbon pricing system designed to achieve America’s economywide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of net-zero by no later than 2050.
- Congress should consider a carbon price as only one tool to complement a suite of policies to achieve deep pollution reductions and strengthen community resilience to climate impacts. Carbon pricing is not a silver bullet.
- Congress should pair a carbon price with policies to achieve measurable air pollution reductions from facilities located in environmental justice (EJ) communities, which face chronic and acute health impacts from a legacy of industrial development in their neighborhoods.
- Congress should not offer liability relief or nullify Clean Air Act authorities or other existing statutory duties to cut pollution in exchange for a carbon price.
Most, but not all, proposed federal carbon pricing mechanisms generate significant revenue that can be used to invest in communities, research and development, and more. Congress may decide to use some of the revenue to address top priorities, including investing in low-income communities, communities of color, and communities and workers in economic transition; rebuilding America’s infrastructure in a climate-resilient way to support a net-zero economy; financing clean energy and energy efficiency projects to expedite pollution reduction; supporting natural climate solutions and conservation; or funding other recommendations in this report.
The majority staff for the Select Committee also acknowledges that environmental justice communities have raised concerns that carbon pricing
(Notes: avoids saying level of carbon price)