Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection Subcommittee

Markup of S.2191, to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a program to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases

406 Dirksen
Thu, 01 Nov 2007 13:00:00 GMT

Markup of America’s Climate Security Act, S. 2191.

Prior to hearing changes were made to secure the support of Sen. Lautenberg, ensuring passage with the votes of Lieberman, Baucus, Lautenberg, and Warner. The changes made in the form of a substitute amendment, according to CQ:
  • Extending the scope of the bill to cover all emissions from the use of natural gas. The introduced bill covers natural gas burned in power plants and industrial processes but not in commercial and residential buildings.
  • Requiring the EPA to make recommendations to Congress based on periodic reports from the National Academy of Sciences. The bill already would direct the academy to evaluate whether changes in the law are necessary, based on the state of the environment and available technology.
Amendments were introduced by Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Changes made by amendments adopted at the markup:
  • Advanced tech auto funding limited to vehicles with minimum of 35 mpg (Sanders 3)
  • More allocations given to states (Barrasso 4)
  • Low-rank coal definition changed from coal below 9000 BTU to 10000 BTU (Barrasso 2)

Live-blog informal transcript of the hearing is below.

9:24 Baucus I look forward as all of us do to make this a better bill. Specifically, spurring our international partners to take greater action. Global problems require global solutions. This bill puts the US back on track to be the global leader on renewable energy and clean coal solutions.

9:26 Lautenberg You have produced a bill we can be proud of. The obstacles to moving on this are obvious. We are living in the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey. We love the outdoors, we rush to the outdoors. The question that I think arises is not whether or not it’s going to cost more. But what’s the cost in life? We’re talking about everybody’s grandchildren in this country. What’s the cost of a decaying infrastructure because we’re beset by pollution? We will never achieve perfection. We permit states to set higher target reductions. I’ll try to keep within the time. The chairman gave us fifty percent more speaking time.

Lieberman I’ll be holding an auction.

Baucus It’ll be held to an emissions cap.

9:30 Sanders I want to thank all who have put together what is in fact a strong bill. It may well be that this issue of trying to reverse global warming is the most important for the world. I want to thank Barbara Boxer who has reversed what we were doing. What is the scientific community saying we have to do? I’m a big fan of bipartisanship, loving each other. But we have to go to the scientists. What they are telling us is the projections they have made were wrong. They underestimated the problem. If anything, the Sanders-Boxer legislation may be too conservative. The problem I have to start with this legislation is it calls for a 63% reduction by 2050. It simply does not go far enough. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that if Congress gets its act together, and gets aggressive about moving to all the new technologies we can solve this problem. We can create millions of well-paying jobs. I will be offering a number of amendments this morning. These amendments come from the scientific community.

9:34 Lieberman I will offer a substitute amendment on behalf of Warner, Lautenberg, Baucus, and myself. The substitute amendment, substantial, will be pending under consideration of other amendments. The pending amendment is amendable. Sen. Sanders and Barrasso each have several they have filed.

9:35 Sanders Amendment 1: There is such huge potential in renewable resources. If you look at where the money goes – we will be playing with more than three trillion dollars and it is important for the American people to know where the money is going. The bill didn’t have one word for solar or wind energy. This amendment carves out from the zero- and low-emissions technologies fund an equal amount for solar, wind, and geothermal as it does for carbon sequestration. It doesn’t add any more money.

Lieberman I’m going to respectfully oppose this amendment. We estimate that the auctioning of these credits will raise a very substantial amount of money which will be reinvested to help the sources of greenhouse gases meet their declining cap and will constitute the most significant national investment our country has made in alternative, clean, renewable technologies. People have said we need a Manhattan Project to make us energy independent. This is it! 45% of the 50% of the auction proceeds goes to zero or low-carbon technologies. It includes solar, wind, it might include nuclear, it includes high-efficiency consumer products. So in the case of this amendment which would say that 28% would only go to renewable energy sources. I’m very sympathetic to renewable energy sources. I think to mandate that significant portion to those sources would be a mistake. As we worked to fashion a compromise there are very different opinions. Some members don’t want us to mention nuclear. One member on the committee is opposed to putting money into wind. It was our judgment not to define which technologies get the money.

Lautenberg I support the Senator’s amendment. I think focusing on those sources that can produce energy without those carbon emissions we worry about. New Jersey is the second largest installer of solar panels due to a state requirement. We have a tariff of over 50 cents of gallon on imported ethanol. We shoot ourselves in our foot. Sen. Sanders is on the right track.

Barrasso I have reservations about this amendment. It diverts money into renewables. I want to direct investment into coal.

Sanders If we put all the money into zero and low-carbon technologies, that would be okay. But we’re putting $324 billion into clean coal. Billions into cellulosic ethanol. Billions to the automakers. It says we’ll put zero to solar. We have more unlimited supplies of solar, wind. It is a disgrace that the large solar plant being built in California is an Israeli company. Where are the American companies? We have not supported that industry.

Lieberman Those numbers are not committee numbers, they’re estimates. If you take that sheet of paper who tried to put a dollar number on the percentages, $522 billion in the zero and low-carbon fund. It can be world-changing. Because of the balance we’ve worked out at this point I think it would be a mistake to carve out for one technology as opposed to the others.

Baucus I think it’s a wiser choice not to adopt this amendment. There are a lot of incentives in other legislation, like the RPS in the energy bill. Second, in the tax portion, a tax credit for renewables. I have to say this Congress is doing enough for renewables. I think it’s better not to pass this amendment.

9:52: Rollcall Failed.

9:53: Barrasso Amendment 2: Support for high-altitude Western state coal gasification demonstration projects.

Lieberman I don’t understand this well enough.

Baucus We have coal in Montana, and we’re a high-altitude state. Maybe we can work something along those lines. We have to make some changes to the language.

Amendment tabled.

9:56 Sanders Amendment 3. I’d like to talk about the carve-outs in this bill. This bill proposes that $232 billion goes to advanced technology vehicles, the automobile industry. The auto industry has led the effort against higher CAFE standards. They produce cars in Europe and Asia that are of far higher efficiency than in the US. The language in the bill is very weak. What are we getting in return for our money? Cars that get 20 MPG. We should be getting 50, 70 MPG. This amendment gives cities and towns money for increasing energy efficiency. I have a 100% lifetime voting record for the AFL-CIO. If we do not act aggressively Detroit will be shutting down and moving to China. What is very clear is that the auto industry is moving to China. GM is opening another research center in China. We need to deal with that in another bill.

Lieberman In my opinion the advanced technology vehicles investment is what we’ve been calling for for a long time. A serious national investment. What’s intended by this very significant amount of money is to create that kind of revolution equal in some ways to the combustion engine so that we can be energy independent. Almost 2/3 of the oil we use in this country is in the transportation sector. Sanders fears this is just a giveaway. It is the goal of the sponsors that the Climate Change Credit Corporation will demand very high standards. It may be that we may want to add express legislative standards on how that money will be spent. I intend to support one of Sanders’ future amendments to that end. This amendment will remove all vehicular funding.

Sanders You talk about the need for revolutionary change in the auto industry. Unfortunately the language in the bill does not do that. It allows the auto industry to produce cars that get 20 MPG.

10:05: Rollcall. Amendment fails.

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10:36 Lautenberg This is not unlike a patient with a sickness, for our world. Do we take our medicine earlier than we’d like, or do we just let it hang out there as far as we can. I salute Sen. Sanders’ work here and I’m going to support it. UCS and NRDC are in favor of moving this date up. I think it’s a good idea to have an earlier target.

10:39 Rollcall: The amendment is adopted. Excuse me, the amendment is not adopted.

10:39 Barrasso Amendment #5. Amendment would push back sequestration targets. Technologies do not exist to reach 85% reductions.

Lieberman This amendment has merit but I’m not prepared to support it now. I request you withdraw it and we can work on it.

Barrasso I withdraw my amendment.

10:41 Sanders His amendment, with all due respect, would be a disaster. To accelerate that makes no sense from a global warming perspective or a health perspective. Amendment #6 says that no new coal-fired plant can move forward unless 85% of its emissions are captured and sequestered. Just two weeks ago Kansas rejected a coal plant permit. On October 15 the Congreso adopted a call for a moratorium on new coal-fired plants. This amendment would respond to that concern to guide the future production and operation of coal-fired power plants. On one hand we’re putting hundreds of billions of dollars into coal sequestration, but on the other hand we’re allowing dirty coal plants to go forward.

Lieberman I certainly understand your concerns. I’m going to oppose your amendment and let me say why. About half of our electricity is produced by coal. Coal is also the most abundant natural energy resource we have today. By some estimates we have some two centuries worth of coal reserves. As we make this transition we have to figure out how to burn coal in a way that is cleaner, that is clean. This bill will take a lot of the money coming to the corporation to give to the coal industry. Practically speaking wanting to move this bill along this amendment would jeopardize the chances of the bill going forward in the Senate.

10:46 Voice vote: the amendment is defeated.

10:46 Barrasso This amendment would extend covered facilities that limits it to petroleum and natural gas fuels, to extend to biodiesel.

Lieberman I’m going to oppose this because it appears to strike a blow to biodiesel, whose lifecycle carbon emissions are much lower.

10:47 Voice vote: the amendment is defeated.

10:48 Sanders I withdraw amendment #7, and go on to amendment 8, supported by UCS, NRDC, PSR, etc. This limits total offsets. The amendment limits the yearly offset to 420 million metric tons of allowances, a number which comes from USPIRG, UCS, and NRDC. Why am I seeking to change the offset provision? An old, coal-fired plant could buy offsets rather than clean up or shut down. The bill allows companies to achieve 15% of its reductions by offsets. If a company emits 100 units now and has 15% tighter in 2020, the 15% offset means the company could emit 97.5 units in 2020 by using offsets. I understand the bill uses guidelines for offsets. I would prefer to limit the total amount of offsets. Many experts have tried to design good offset programs but without satisfactory results.

Lieberman I respectfully oppose the amendment. Offsets are a way to use the power of the market to drive an overall reduction in greenhouse gases. Maybe an emitter decides it would rather retire an old facility or support a farmer to reduce methane emissions. It’s a different way to achieve the same goal. We’ve had real concern about achieving this with integrity. As to whether it should be 15% or the lowered number is a judgment call, a subjective call. The 2020 cap, the 2050 cap, and this will be under debate. This is a reasonable balance, subject to negotiations. As chairman we need to keep it at 15% to keep this bill moving.

10:54 Voice vote: Amendment is defeated.

10:54 Barrasso Amendment 7 creates Congressional panel that assesses impact to federal and state budgets of the bill if economic impact is greater than 2% before the bill is implemented.

Lieberman I’m going to oppose this because it would delay implementation. The Carbon Market Efficiency Board would have continuing monitoring and surveillance abilities.

10:56 Amendment is defeated by voice vote.

10:56 Sanders Amendment #9 is one of the most important amendments I have offered because it is about the bottom line. I understand what we do is about compromise. This is not what I want, Sen. Isakson, Sen. Lautenberg. What we’re dealing with is the future of the planet, not what I want. If people here think they know more than the scientists, that’s fine. We’ve got to act boldly. It would require cuts by 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. I should repeat here and that even these goals according to the IPCC are conservative. These are not some radical wild-eyed ideas. Let me contrast these targets with what is in the bill. I understand that one of the changes in the manager’s amendment includes residential natural gas in the coverage of the bill. This bill would get us reductions 13% by 2020 and 63% by 2050. If we don’t get this act right the results could be cataclysmic.

Lieberman Your presence has made substantial contributions to this bill. We’re trying to do something real here. This is one of those numbers which we will debate. We would take in the substitute to 63% by 2050, you to 80% by 2050. To hold a majority and ultimately 60 votes on the Senate floor. The number one goal with environmental groups was to make the initial goal real, which I think we have done with the 15% goal. I will say also that the USCAP set a goal between 60-80% by 2050, we’re confident we’re in that. The IPCC says we have to keep the level below 500 PPM as we head to the end of this century. Outside scientists say we would do that. Your amendment would break the coalition and have possible other negative impacts.

Isakson I respect Sanders’ passion. I don’t discount science. I do think we have to empower the private sector and all the alternatives that are there, which leads me back to the nuclear power issue. If we go through this bill and have not empowered one of the best resources to achieve our goal, then we’ve done a disservice. I want to compliment you for recognizing that the solution lies in private business innovation, which is why I continue have a passion for nuclear energy.

Lieberman I appreciate your words and agree with them.

Lautenberg We’ve repeatedly heard we have to reduce our emissions by 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming. I think the Sanders amendment is in line with the science. I think the analogy of us as doctors is appropriate. We know what kind of medicine is needed. Why would you hold back to administer that medicine? I salute the well-meaning bill, it’s a good bill, but when I see an amendment like Sanders I support it. If it’s too stringent we can change it.

Sanders This isn’t about passion. Nobody wants to see us enter an era of drought, floods. This isn’t about passion. This is about science. What the scientists are telling us is that we have to get to 80% by 2050 to have a 50-50 chance to avert catastrophe. We are beyond old-fashioned politics. This is chemistry, this is physics, this is science.

Lieberman Sen. Lautenberg made some significant contributions. One of which is to include natural gas within the cap. Doing so may well put us in the position of reducing our emissions by 19% by 2020.

11:10 Roll call: Amendment fails.

Barrasso Amendment 8 sunsets the bill in five years. So much rides on China and India following in a cap-and-trade approach.

Lieberman I’m going to oppose the amendment for two or three reasons. We need to create a sense of certainty.

11:13 Amendment is defeated by voice vote.

Barrasso Amendment #1 creates the Rocky Mountain Center of Coal Studies at the University of Wyoming.

Baucus We in Montana have more coal than anywhere else on Earth. More than China. The governor of Montana is interested in developing coal. We’re looking at clean coal technologies. I frankly believe that because we have more coal than anywhere else in the world, that the University of Montana would be a good place for this too. I ask that the amendment be withdrawn and talk with Barrasso about the language.

Barrasso I will withdraw the amendment and work with Sen. Baucus on our commitment to coal.

11:18 Lieberman We’ve done very well, though there’s lots of disagreement, we’ve worked together in an excellent manner. The journey to climate change legislation in the United States will just begin with this step. I rule that the amendments agreed to today are appropriately drafted to the substitute. I move to adopt the substitute by voice vote. I move to report the bill to the full committee.

Barrasso Mr. Chairman I would like specifics to where these ten changes are in the pages.

Sanders I thought this was a constructive markup and want to thank you, Sen. Warner, and especially Sen. Boxer for changing the direction of the Congress. I do think that Congress is way behind the American people. This is a step forward but I regretfully am not prepared to support this bill.

Lieberman It’s really unfortunate Sen. Warner could not be here today.

Baucus Sen. Warner is a good man, and if there were more senators like him, the world would be a better place.

Rollcall: Aye: Lieberman, Warner (proxy), Baucus, Lautenberg No: Sanders, Isakson, Barrasso.

11:23 Lieberman With that the bill as amended is reported favorably to the full committee and the meeting is adjourned.

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