Bipartisan House Plan Takes Crack At Combating Climate Change

A House bipartisan proposal expected this week aims to invest significantly in clean energy infrastructure, technology, and tax incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years.

The discussion draft, obtained by Bloomberg Government, would create a clean electricity standard for the power sector to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050. The measure also calls for expanded resources for technology for carbon capture, use and storage, and would establish a revamped regulatory framework to modernize the energy grid.

Reps.  David McKinley  (R-W.Va.) and  Kurt Schrader  (D-Ore.), who have been working on the legislation for months, aim to formally introduce the bill before the end of the year, according to a McKinley spokeswoman, who confirmed a draft of the proposal is expected to be unveiled this week.

Language in the draft bill would shift enforcement of power sector carbon dioxide emissions from the Clean Air Act to the policy framework mandated in the proposal. But if emissions are not reduced as directed under the legislation, a state or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could then revert back to the enforcement mechanism under the Clean Air Act.

The proposal would direct the secretary of energy to publish the annual average level of greenhouse gas emissions for the electricity sector for the prior three calendar years starting on Feb. 1 of the first year after the law’s enactment.

It also would increase the amount of time companies can take advantage of the 45Q tax credit, designed to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging recipients to capture carbon. Other sections would provide a range of other tax incentives for renewable and nuclear energy use, as well as for energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings.

A spokesperson from Schrader’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pragmatic Approach

A diverse coalition of groups expressed support for the bipartisan effort to reduce pollution while trying to maintain affordable, reliable access to energy for consumers.

Scott Segal, director of EnergyForward and a partner at Bracewell LLP called the McKinley-Schrader proposal “an important milestone along the road to developing climate legislation” that “addresses roles for both forward-looking energy innovation policy and for regulatory authority as needed.” EnergyForward is a group of utilities that includes  Ameren Corp. ,  Duke Energy Corp.  and  Southern Company .

National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O’Mara called the plan “an innovative approach to cutting energy sector climate pollution.”

McKinley, a Republican from coal country and Schrader, a coastal Oregonian, in recent months have touted their expected plan as a pragmatic approach to combining innovation with regulatory changes to help the energy sector transition to affordable, clean energy in the decades to come. A proposal this week would be the first public unveiling of the measure.

“We agree that ambitious environmental standards are important, but impractical plans without the necessary resources are not the best way to do the job,” McKinley and Schrader wrote in a USA Today op-ed in January, outlining their plans to introduce climate and clean-energy focused legislation in 2020. “If we’re going to ask the coal and gas industries to eliminate their emissions, they should have every opportunity to develop the technologies that can protect their workers and consumers.”

In the same piece, the Democrat and Republican said they expected “complaints” about their approach from the ends of the political spectrum as well as economists. “While many would prefer a broad tax on emissions, we do not believe it can get through Congress,” they wrote.

The McKinley-Schrader effort comes after House Democrats on Tuesday announced a wide-ranging clean energy package ( H.R. 4447 ) that the chamber will vote on next week. That measure includes provisions to improve the electricity grid and broaden investments and access to electric vehicles. A Senate energy package ( S. 2657 ) that could be revived in the next few weeks includes similar provisions.

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