Thursday, February 13, 2014

Good News about EPW But Bad News about Energy

Let's start with the goods news.

Since Max Baucus (D-MT) was just confirmed as US Ambassador to China, Ed Markey was given his spot on the Environment and Public Works Committee:
WASHINGTON (February 11, 2014) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) was appointed today to the Environment and Public Works Committee, providing an important placement to help Senator Markey advance legislation that attacks climate change, creates infrastructure jobs, and keeps the air and water clean in Massachusetts and across the nation. The appointment comes after a successful history of work by Senator Markey on issues overseen by the committee.

“The work done on the Environment and Public Works Committee is proof that we can have a healthy economy and a healthy environment at the same time, creating jobs even as we cut pollution,” said Senator Markey. “Whether it’s repairing our roads and bridges, expanding commerce at Boston Harbor, or combating climate change, I am going to use my service on this committee to help Massachusetts now and in the future. I look forward to working with Chairman Boxer and my other colleagues on the committee.”
Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Committee said, “Senator Markey will be a great addition to the Environment and Public Works Committee because of his proven effectiveness as a legislator.  He has shown great leadership on the issues that the EPW Committee is working on right now, including addressing climate change, investing in critical transportation and water infrastructure, and ensuring that our nuclear facilities are safe and secure.  I welcome Senator Markey to this Committee and look forward to working with him on these critical issues.”

Senator Markey is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Commerce, and Small Business Committees. On the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Markey is the Chairman of the International Development and Environmental Protection Subcommittee, which handles foreign aid programs, international energy and climate agreements, oceans, and other issues. He is also lead co-Chair of the Climate Change Clearinghouse. The combination of these appointments gives Senator Markey a broad platform to represent issues central to Massachusetts and the nation.
From 2007 to 2011, Markey was the chair of the House Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee, and he is currently a co-chair of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change. He was also, along with Henry Waxman, a co-sponsor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House in 2009. 
This bodes well for EPW. Max Baucus, one of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus, supports the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, opposes placing a fee on carbon, and had one of the lowest lifetime LCV ratings in the caucus.

Almost exactly a year ago, Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders introduced a comprehensive climate proposal, consisting of the Climate Protection Act (a fee-and-dividend bill) and the Sustainable Energy Act. With them at the press conference, showing support for the legislation, were representatives from various environmental, consumer, and liberal groups:  Bill McKibben, founder of; Mike Brune, executive director of Sierra Club; Tara McGuiness, executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund; Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s energy director; and Meg Power of the National Community Action Foundation.

I wrote about it last year (linked above):
Pricing Carbon: First, their proposal would enact a carbon fee of $20 per ton of carbon or methane equivalent, set to rise 5.6% each year over a ten year period.  The fee would be applied upstream---at the coal mine, the oil refinery, the natural gas processing point, or the point of importation; it would, consequently, apply to 2,869 of the largest fossil fuel polluters and would cover 85% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  The tax would, according to the Congressional Research Office, generate $1.2 trillion in revenue over the next decade.  Additionally, the Climate Protection Act would set a long-term emissions reduction goal of 80% or more by 2050 (as science demands) and would reduce emissions by approximately 20% from 2005 levels by 2025.

Protecting Communities from Fracking: In order to ensure that a carbon fee does not harm communities through increased extraction of natural gas, the Boxer-Sanders legislation would end the "Halliburton exemption" from the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking and would include all the provisions from the FRAC Act to guarantee disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process.

Investment in Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy: The Boxer-Sanders legislation would use some of the revenue gained from the carbon tax to invest in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies in order to create jobs and further reduce emissions. The bill would provide funds to weatherize 1 million homes and would triple the budget of ARPA-E for energy research and development.  It would create a Sustainable Technologies Financing Program that would leverage $500 billion, through public-private partnerships, in investments in wind, solar, geothermal, advanced biomass and biofuels, ocean and tidal energy, hydropower, advanced transportation projects, and energy efficiency technologies. It would invest in domestic manufacturing and energy-intensive industries to promote energy efficiency and would fund $1 billion a year in worker training to help transition to a clean energy economy.

Family Clean Energy Rebate Program: The Boxer-Sanders bill would use 3/5th of the revenue from the carbon fee for this program, based on the design of Alaska's oil dividend, to provide a monthly rebate to every U.S. resident in order to offset potential increases in utility bills.

Fair Trade and International Cooperation: The Boxer-Sanders legislation would levy the same carbon fee on all imported fuels and products unless the exporting nation has a similar program or carbon fee in place. The revenue gained here would help communities make infrastructure more resilient and fund adaptation projects that protect natural resources and wildlife, and it would help the U.S. to meet international commitments to assist in global climate adaptation. The bill intends for the fee to spur other nations to take similar actions and to work towards an international treaty.
Debt Reduction: Part of the revenue raised from the carbon fee, along with that raised by ending fossil fuel subsidies, would contribute approximately $300 billion to debt reduction over the next decade.
It has seen little movement, and with Baucus in the Committee, it couldn't have passed out of Committee, let alone the Senate. 
However, the terrain is much more favorable today. The current Democratic (caucus) members of EPW are the following:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Ed Markey (D-MA)

Boxer, Carper, Cardin, Sanders, Whitehouse, Udall, Merkley, and Gillibrand are all on record supporting a carbon tax. Ed Markey has championed the idea as well, as has the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change (of which he is now a co-chair).

Cory Booker is currently the only Democrat in EPW who has not publicly endorsed placing a fee on carbon emissions. During the New Jersey special election, Rush Holt (NJ-12) criticized him for not having a stance on the issue. His Senate website does not have a developed issues page. His campaign website said that one his priorities regarding environmental protection would be "working to support comprehensive climate change legislation that incentivizes the creation of green jobs and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

Anyway, the landscape in EPW for climate legislation is now much more favorable than it was before. Climate legislation could not pass the Senate right now; however, a favorable Committee landscape is important for establishing the foundation for legislation later in the decade. Every single member of the Committee represents a blue state, which means (granted no one retires) this will likely be the look of the Committee for the rest of the decade.

Now, the bad news.

With Max Baucus's retirement, Ron Wyden has taken his spot as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Wyden was formerly chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Now that he's gone--and since Tim Johnson (D-SD)'s retiring, Mary Landrieu (D-OIL) becomes chair. And that's deeply troubling for anyone who cares about the future of the planet (and its people).

Upon taking the new position, Landrieu said,
“I am excited and honored to lead this committee that is so critical to Louisiana and the nation’s economic vitality, job creation and energy security,” she said in a statement. “I’m humbled to be a part of the long list of pro-energy senators from both parties who have led this committee with strength, vision and distinction, including one of Louisiana’s finest, J. Bennett Johnston.”
And by "pro-energy," she means pro-oil, pro-gas, and pro-coal. Her Energy Security page only mentions wind and solar dismiss them as inferior to natural gas in job creation. The page reads as a paean to fossil fuels. 
Last Thursday, she joined a group of Republicans and red state Democrats calling on Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. She has been one of Keystone's most vocal champions in the Senate, co-sponsoring a resolution with John Hoeven (R-ND) expressing the sense of Congress that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is in the best interest of the nation.

Landrieu has been a big champion of exporting liquefied natural gas, which would increase carbon emissions and subject more sensitive land to environmental risk.

Mary Landrieu has consistently been one of the top recipients of oil and gas money in the Senate. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, she is the third largest recipient of oil and gas contributions this election cycle--and the biggest Democratic recipient. During the 2008 election cycle, she was the top congressional recipient of contributions from BP and expressed no intention of returning said contributions after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"Campaign contributions, from energy companies or from environmental groups, have absolutely no impact on Sen. Landrieu's policy agenda or her response to this unprecedented disaster in the Gulf," Saunders wrote. "The Senator is proud of the broad coalition she's built since her first day in the Senate to address the energy and environmental challenges in Louisiana and in the nation. This disaster only makes the effort to promote and save Louisiana's coast all that more important."
No effect at all, eh? 
She is currently among the top 10 congressional recipients of money from the fracking industry--and the only Democrat to make the list.

She has the second lowest League of Conservation Voters score in the Senate Democratic caucus, second--of course--to Joe Manchin (D-COAL).

For all practical purposes, having Landrieu as Energy Chair is the same as ceding the Committee to the Republican Party. Landrieu, Mancin, and the Republicans on the Committee can form a fossil fuel majority to pass environmentally destructive legislation. If Landrieu gets re-elected, the best for which we can hope from the Energy Committee for the rest of the decade is that its bills never make it into laws.

No comments:

Post a Comment