Welcome to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for the 110th Congress; this "week in review" diary is part of the Daily Kos Congressional Committees Project.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is the new chairwoman for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. A strong friend of the environment, Boxer is as different from former chairman Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) as night is from day. To illustrate their differences we can look at their pro-environment voting records from the 109th Congress, in which Sen. Boxer earned a voting score of 90% and 100% from the League of Conservation Voters, while Sen. Inhofe earned 0% for both sessions.
Global warming is sure to dominate the agenda for the Committee on Environment & Public Works in this session of Congress, and again Boxer and Inhofe could not be more different on this highly crucial issue:
From Sen. Inhofe:
As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, "much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science." I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations. I also pointed out, in a lengthy committee report, that those same environmental extremists exploit the issue for fundraising purposes, raking in millions of dollars, even using federal taxpayer dollars to finance their campaigns.
From Sen. Boxer:
The air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we consume have a direct impact on the health of our families. The American people deserve a government that does its job to protect their health and safety. The work of this Committee helps define the kind of world we leave our children and grandchildren...Nowhere is there a greater threat to future generations than the disastrous effects of global warming. Scientists tell us we must act soon to cut production of greenhouse gases. One of my top priorities will be to spotlight this issue with the help of colleagues from both sides of the aisle with the goal of ultimately bringing legislation to the Senate floor.
Thank God for elections.
The Committee on Environment & Public Works oversees air pollution, water pollution, global climate change, endangered species, national wildlife refuges, toxic waste sites under Superfund, and development of the interstate highway system. The committee now has six subcommittees, some of which were recently renamed by Chairwoman Boxer to emphasize her priorities. The subcommittees include: Public Sector Solutions to Global Warming, Oversight, and Children's Health Protection; Transportation and Infrastructure; Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection; Clean Air, Nuclear Plant Security and Community Development; Superfund and Environmental Health; and Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality.
While the Committee on Environment & Public Works will oversee many important bills this Congress, the early media attention has been focused on the three competing global warming bills that have recently been introduced and sent to the committee. Below are details of the three major bills:
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Barack Obama (D-IL) have introduced S.280, which is "The Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007."
The bill will provide for a program to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by establishing a market-driven system of greenhouse gas tradeable allowances, to support the deployment of new climate change-related technologies, and to ensure benefits to consumers from the trading in such allowances.
From Sen. Lieberman's website
The 2005 version of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act would have capped US greenhouse gas emissions at year 2000 levels without mandating further reductions. The new bill (S. 280) will gradually lower the emissions cap, such that it reaches approximately one third of 2000 levels by 2050. Those long-term reductions will forestall catastrophic, manmade climate change, provided the world’s other major economies follow suit within the next decade. Like the 2005 version, the reintroduced bill controls compliance costs by allowing companies to trade, save, and borrow emissions credits, and by allowing them to generate "offset" credits by inducing non-covered businesses, farms, and others to reduce their emissions or capture and store greenhouse gases. The reintroduced bill, however, increases the availability of borrowing and offsets in order to control costs further.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VA) has introduced S.309, "The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act," which is a bill to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, and for other purposes. The bill, which does not include cap-and-trade, applies pollution standards to vehicle emissions, coal production and power plants, and also sets energy efficiency standards to reduce energy consumption
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, Patrick Leahy, Edward Kennedy, Robert Menendez, Frank Lautenberg, Jack Reed, Daniel Akaka, Daniel Inouye, Russell Feingold, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Senator Boxer said, "This is the gold standard bill, as originally laid out by Senator Jim Jeffords, and I am very proud to be a cosponsor of it."
The bill is also supported by the Earth Day Network, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense, Environmental & Energy Study Institute, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, National Environmental Trust, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and US PIRG.
According to Sen. Sanders website
...the bill sets out a roadmap of targets, requirements and incentives that EPA will use to reduce U.S emissions and help stabilize global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Specifically, the act sets a goal of achieving a reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that will help stabilize global concentrations below 450 parts per million--a critical level as recognized by leading climate scientists. To achieve this goal, the United States must reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and make additional reductions between 2020 and 2050. The bill includes a combination of economy wide reduction targets, mandatory measures, and incentives for the development and diffusion of cleaner technologies to achieve these goals.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Sen. Thomas Carper (DE) have introduced S. 317, "The Electric Utility Cap-and-Trade Act," which is a bill to amend the Clean Air Act to establish a program to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases from electric utilities, which account for approximately 33% of all U.S. emissions. This cap-and-trade bill will:
*Seeks to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the sector at 2006 levels in 2011 and 2001 levels in 2015. By 2020 emissions would be reduced 25 percent below where they would be expected to be that year without action.
*Sets up cap-and-trade system allowing affected utilities to buy and trade "credits," each representing one ton of carbon dioxide. The credits would be allocated based on emission reduction goals in the bill and utilities exceeding their allotment would have to buy credits from other utilities or offset credits from carbon-reduction programs.
*The Environmental Protection Agency would auction off some credits each year with money going for developing new low-carbon technologies and mitigating the effects of climate change.
*Establishes scientific panel to make recommendations to EPA every four years on reduction rate.
Sen. Feinstein's bill has been endorsed by six energy companies: Calpine, Entergy, Exelon, Florida Power & Light, PG&E Corporation, and Public Service Enterprise Group.
Feinstein states on her website that this is just one of five bills she plans to introduce that will address the causes of global warming. The others will include a cap-and-trade bill for the industrial sector; a bill that increases fuel economy standards by 10 miles per gallon over the next 10 years; a bill to promote bio-diesel and E-85, and other low carbon fuels; and an energy efficiency bill modeled after California's programs.
A fourth bill is being prepared by Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and it will supposedly be a fallback bill to the Lieberman-McCain-Obama offering. You can read more about the Bingaman bill in this diary by Patrick Kennedy, who is also a volunteer with the Daily Kos Committee on Environment & Public Works section.
Sen. Boxer has stated that one bill may not cover all the issues that need to be addressed in order to slow global warming:
Rather than combining all the proposals into one bill, Boxer said the issue could be addressed through a series of legislation.
"The consensus bill could be one bill with five parts, it could be five smaller bills," Boxer said. "We don't know."...
Boxer's committee will hold a hearing Jan. 30, where all 100 members of the Senate will be invited to propose legislation to cut heat-trapping emissions linked to global warming and rising ocean levels...
Panel hearings on the issue could be wrapped up by March and "we'll have action hopefully this year" on a vote, she said.
Boxer has also wisely tied the issue of global warming to the upcoming 2008 presidential election:
Boxer said that any climate change legislation that emerges from her committee will have bipartisan support, and that the White House and Senate Republicans will oppose it at their peril.
Boxer warned the Bush administration that a veto of bipartisan climate change legislation could hurt Republican candidates in the 2008 presidential election.
"If we get a bill through here and they veto it they will jeopardize their own party in the presidential race," Boxer said. "Solving global warming will be one of the key issues of the 2008 election."
And Chairwoman Boxer is smart to take this approach. While it is true that global warming legislation is likely doomed as long as Bush is in the White House, there is an advantage in forcing Bush to veto a global warming bill, or a series of bills, because then environmentalists and green Democrats can make global warming a litmus test for the 2008 presidential race.
But the fight is just beginning, and Chairwoman Boxer will need support from American voters if meaningful legislation is to make it to the White House. Now is the time for citizens to stand up and demand that politicans use the force of the federal government to slow global warming. The time for voluntary measures has passed -- we now need regulatory measures with teeth.
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