House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., released a far-reaching climate proposal that would require economywide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandate that utilities generate electricity from clean energy sources.
The draft legislation, called the CLEAN Future Act, would create federal subsidies and also new standards for the electricity, transportation, industrial and building sectors. It also includes provisions on environmental justice, methane emissions, hazardous pollutants and worker development programs.
A committee-produced section-by-section outline of the climate proposal can be found here.
Pallone said his committee would hold a series of hearings this year related to the draft legislation. He also requested stakeholder feedback, with the goal of introducing legislation by the end of 2020.
Republicans on the committee panned the effort as partisan, calling it a "politics-over-progress approach."
Pallone's challenge in developing legislation this year will be generating broad support from within his own party, especially from progressive lawmakers who advocate for more aggressive measures to address climate change, such as eliminating the use of fossil fuels.
For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., last year introduced the Green New Deal, a nonbinding resolution that calls for more strict greenhouse gas reductions. It has 98 co-sponsors among House Democrats.
Similarly, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is pushing a $16 trillion climate plan that would nationalize electricity production, eliminate fossil fuels in electricity generation by 2030 and immediately ban hydraulic fracking.
Pallone said his proposal is more politically realistic and economically achievable. His proposal and effort to develop legislation has the support of senior members of his committee, including Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., chairman of the Climate Change Subcommittee, and Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the Energy Subcommittee.
U.S. electricity generation is responsible for 28% of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory. The CLEAN Future Act would require that all retail electricity providers increase clean electricity supply by 2022 – ramping up to a required 100% by 2050.
Pallone's plan would establish a credit trading program for providers to buy, sell or trade credits to comply with those requirements.
For the transportation sector, the proposal focuses on increasing efficiencies to meet the emissions goals. Using subsidies and grants to ease the transition to electric vehicles, the plan aims to drive advances in low-carbon alternative transportation fuels under the existing Renewable Fuels Standard.
The draft bill would direct the EPA to set new and increasingly stringent emissions standards for all classes of motor vehicles, requiring year-over-year improvements to reach the 2050 net-zero goal. EPA would be required to create standards for "nonroad" engines, such as aircraft and locomotives. Additionally, the bill would provide incentives for boosting the electric vehicle fleet through nationwide infrastructure improvements and grants for retrofitting existing vehicles.
For stakeholders in the industrial and building sectors, the bill would set procurement requirements and efficiency standards. Establishing a Buy Clean Program, the proposal would require that materials purchased for projects receiving federal funds be the "cleanest construction materials," with the goal of reducing emissions and strengthening U.S. manufacturing of clean products and low-carbon materials. Seeking to improve building efficiency, the CLEAN Future Act also would establish national energy savings targets for building energy codes and require zero-energy-ready buildings by 2030.
Drawing from the state-directed model of the Clean Air Act, the proposal would require states to receive approval from the EPA for their respective plans to reach the 2050 target, either independently or in coordination with other states.
Beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Pallone's proposal addresses environmental pollution and environmental justice by codifying President Bill Clinton's 1994 Executive Order 12898, which mandated that federal agencies integrate environmental justice in decision-making and allow for more engagement from underserved communities in rulemaking processes. The proposal also would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act by requiring monitoring of drinking water in sources connected with hydraulic fracturing operations and eliminating exemptions under the Solid Waste Disposal Act for oil and gas exploration and production wastes.
Pallone's proposal also would address the Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program, disposal of coal ash, brownfields funding, and emissions-reduction targets for the oil and gas industry.
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