ROCKEFELLER FRUSTRATED BY FAILURE OF SENATE TO ACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
~Senator Had Been Pressing For West Virginia Clean Coal to Play Key Role~
After three days of debate, the Senate today failed to move forward on legislation to address both global climate change and responsible energy policy.
Senator Jay Rockefeller had been pressing for greater investments in clean coal technology, including a full-court press to begin carbon capture research and development. At the same time, he had serious concerns with some of the other provisions in the legislation, but he had hoped to be able to strengthen the bill through amendments.
Senator Rockefeller's statement follows:
"West Virginians understand better than anyone that clean coal, clean West Virginia coal, can be a big part of the solution to global climate change and our increasing energy needs. As we begin to consider climate legislation, my goals are to fight for clean coal technologies and make sure that I -- representing West Virginia's coal miners and industry -- have a seat at the negotiating table.
"I voted today to keep us moving forward on the bill because climate change is a matter of basic human survival - but in that context my priority remains finding better ways to leverage our abundant coal resources and protect our economy here at home.
"Capturing carbon emissions will be one of the single greatest scientific and economic challenges of the 21st Century. We need to bring together the best scientists in the country, even the world, and really start to come up with solutions. The technology is there, we just need time to make it better, more efficient, and more affordable on a large scale. That's why I offered an amendment to the bill that begins a full-court press on carbon capture research, development, and deployment, and I'll look for other opportunities to push that issue.
"New technologies and practical solutions to climate change should not be held hostage to budget constraints. As a nation, if we have to borrow the money to make it happen, then we should simply do it. It's absolutely the right and moral thing to do - and it will more than pay for itself in the long run."
To help move the process forward from here, Senator Rockefeller joined with coal state senators to outline their concerns with the climate change bill in the hopes that they can be resolved in the coming months. Some of the key issues include protecting consumers, increasing the investment in clean coal research, and strengthening manufacturing competitiveness.
The letter that was sent to both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Barbara Boxer (D-CA) follows.
June 6, 2008
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
S-221, the Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Barbara Boxer
Chairman, Committee on Environment and Public Works
456 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Mr. Leader and Chairman Boxer:
As Democrats from regions of the country that will be most immediately affected by climate legislation, we want to share our concerns with the bill that is currently before the Senate. We commend your leadership in attempting to address one of the most significant threats to this and future generations; however, we cannot support final passage of the Boxer Substitute in its current form.
We believe a federal cap and trade program must not only significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also ensure that consumers and workers in all regions of the U.S. are protected from undue hardship. A federal cap and trade program is perhaps the most significant endeavor undertaken by Congress in over 70 years and must be done with great care. To that point we have laid out the following principles and concerns that must be considered and fully addressed in any final legislation.
· Contain Costs and Prevent Harm to the U.S. Economy: We hope that you recognize, as we do, the inherent uncertainty in predicting the costs of achieving the emission caps set forth in this or any climate legislation. While placing a cost on carbon is important, we believe that there must be a balance and a short-term cushion when new technologies may not be available as hoped for or are more expensive than assumed. There are many options to deal with the issue and all should be up for discussion in order to meet our environmental and economic goals. Ultimately, we must strive to form a partnership with regulated industries to help them reduce emissions as they transition from an old energy economy to a new energy economy which will protect both our environment and our economy.
· Invest Aggressively in New Technologies and Deployment of Existing Technologies: There is no doubt that we need a technological revolution to enter into a low carbon economy. It is critical that we design effective mechanisms to augment and accelerate government-sponsored technology R&D programs and incentives that will motivate rapid deployment of those technologies without picking winners and losers. We also want to include proposals to provide funding for carbon capture and storage and other critical low carbon technologies in advance of resources being available through the auction of emission allowances. We also need to aggressively deploy existing energy efficiency technologies now to retrofit millions of homes, buildings and manufacturing facilities to reduce electricity costs for everyone.
· Treat States Equitably: Just as some groups of consumers will be more severely affected by the cost of compliance, so too will our states. The allocation structure of a cap-and-trade bill must be designed to balance these burdens across states and regions and be sufficiently transparent to be understood.
· Protect America's Working Families: Any legislation must recognize that working families are going to be significantly affected by any cap and trade legislation. Price relief for these families must be included in any federal cap and trade program. For instance, one way to provide some relief would be to provide additional allowances to utilities whose electricity prices are regulated, which would help to keep electricity prices low.
· Protect U.S. Manufacturing Jobs and Strengthen International Competitiveness: The Lieberman-Warner bill contains a mechanism to protect U.S. manufacturers from international competitors that do not face the same carbon constraints. If this mechanism does not work, or is found to be noncompliant with the World Trade Organization, then the program needs to be modified or suspended. The final bill must include enhanced safeguards to ensure a truly equitable and effective global effort that minimizes harm to the U.S. economy and protects American jobs. Furthermore, we must adequately help manufacturers transition to a low carbon economy to maintain domestic jobs and production.
· Fully Recognize Agriculture and Forestry's Role: Agriculture and forestry are notregulated under the bill but they can contribute to reducing emissions by over 20% domestically. Furthermore, international deforestation contributes to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, aggressive and verifiable offset policies can fully utilize the capabilities of our farmers and forests. A strong offset policy can also reduce the costs of a cap and trade program while maintaining our strong environmental goals.
· Clarify Federal/State Authority: Congress should adopt a mandatory federal cap-and-trade program that will be the single regulatory regime for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Existing state laws and initiatives should be integrated into the federal cap-and-trade program where the policies do not conflict. Federal uniformity in this area should be made clear in the statutory language to prevent conflict in regulation, preserve overall efficiency, and ensure harmonization of regulations. Where a conflict exists, federal law needs to clearly prevail.
· Provide Accountability for Consumer Dollars: The cap and trade program developed in the Lieberman-Warner bill has the potential to raise over $7 trillion. Much of these funds will be indirectly paid for by consumers through increased energy prices. The federal government has a fundamental obligation to ensure these funds are being spent in a responsible and wise manner. The development of any cap and trade program must recognize the sensitivity of this obligation and eliminate all possibility of waste, fraud or abuse.
We look forward to working with you to ensure that any final bill will address the problems of climate change without imposing undue hardship on our states, key industrial sectors and consumers.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)
Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)