By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats today are unveiling their climate change legislation, a bill that would seek to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 85 percent by 2050.
The bill would also establish a cap-and-trade system to push utilities and industry polluters to meet those goals, according to a document obtained by the Globe.
The bill, which is being introduced by Representatives Henry Waxman of California, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the Energy and Environment subcommittee, would also create a renewable energy standard that requires wind, solar, and other renewable sources to meet 25 percent of US energy needs by 2025. And it would create an energy efficiency resource standard that requires utilities to achieve a savings of 15 percent of electricity and 10 percent of natural gas by 2020.
The legislation, which is on track for a committee vote in May, leaves open one of the most controversial aspects of the cap-and-trade system, which is how many pollution credits will be auctioned off and how many will be doled out for free. That would be settled in the coming weeks, as lawmakers weigh in on what they would be willing to accept.
Environmentalists are urging Congress to adopt a global warming policy in advance of international climate talks in Copenhagen scheduled for December, where leaders have agreed to update the Kyoto Protocol, which the Bush administration refused to sign.
In his first week in office, President Obama overturned Bush policy on climate change, ordering environmental regulators to reconsider allowing California, Massachusetts, and other states to set stricter auto emissions standards.
“This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution.” Waxman said in a statement. “Our goal is to strengthen our economy by making America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.”
Markey added in a statement, “This legislation will create clean energy jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and make America the global leader in energy technology. We will create jobs by the millions, save money by the billions, and unleash energy investment by the trillions. Chairman Waxman and I will work with our colleagues to ensure that we are protecting American consumers and that our clean energy future helps all parts of the country.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered measured support, calling the Waxman-Markey bill "a strong starting point."
"The President has called for landmark legislation to launch a clean energy economy that will build prosperity and balance the needs of the American people and industry," she said in a statement. "As was the case with the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, House leaders will work closely with the committees of jurisdiction to advance this critical legislation.
"The final legislation will: create millions of new, green jobs; increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil; increase American competitiveness by making us a technology leader; meet the climate crisis with sound science; and reduce overall energy costs for consumers and businesses. We will continue to hear the best ideas about how to tackle the challenge from a broad range of stakeholders, with the intention of having legislation on the House floor this year. The scope of this effort is historic and overdue."
The US Climate Action Partnership -- a coalition of businesses and environmental groups -- also called the bill a good starting point.
"The discussion draft provides a solid foundation to create a climate strategy that both protects our economy and achieves the nation's environmental goals. It recognizes that many of these issues are tightly linked and must be dealt with simultaneously. We appreciate the thoughtful approach reflected in the draft and the priority the Chairmen are placing on this important issue," the partnership said in a statement.
"The draft addresses most of the core issues identified by USCAP in our Blueprint for Legislative Action and reflects many of our policy recommendations. Any climate program must promote private sector investment in vital low-carbon technologies that will create new jobs and provide a foundation for economic recovery. Legislation must also protect consumers, vulnerable communities and businesses while ensuring economic sustainability and environmental effectiveness."
The partnership includes some big corporate names, including Boston Scientific, that favor action on global warming.
Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, had some praise for the bill.
"We are pleased that the Waxman-Markey draft bill recognizes the need to stop carbon leakage and ensure the competitiveness of our domestic industries," he said in a statement. "The right combination of rebates and border adjustments can help fulfill the mission of the bill: lowering carbon output while strengthening the domestic economy. As the legislative process moves forward, we are eager to work with Congress to make sure the rebate and border adjustment features are strong enough to hold other countries accountable for their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are a global problem and a global solution is an imperative. The last thing Congress should want to do is offshore jobs and production to foreign manufacturers that have significantly larger carbon footprints, undermining the aim of climate change policy."
The summary of the bill and schdule is below. For more detail, click here.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act will create millions of new clean energy jobs, save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs, enhance America’s energy independence, and cut global warming pollution. To meet these goals, the legislation has four titles:
· A clean energy title that promotes renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, low-carbon fuels, clean electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission;
· An energy efficiency title that increases energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, including buildings, appliances, transportation, and industry;
· A global warming title that places limits on emissions of heat-trapping pollutants; and
· A transitioning title that protects U.S. consumers and industry and promotes green jobs during the transition to a clean energy economy.
The Energy and Commerce Committee will complete consideration of the legislation by Memorial Day. The preliminary schedule follows:
· Week of April 20: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Hearings
· Week of April 27: Energy and Environment Subcommittee Markup Period Begins
· Week of May 11: Full Energy and Commerce Committee Markup Period Begins
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.