An energy bill is emerging from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it has some "unacceptable" provisions, according to leading energy and environmental experts.
Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, has a draft bill online, along with summaries of key provisions. The bill has a variety of important provisions aimed at promoting energy efficiency in electricity and vehicles — and some useful provisions to promote low carbon fuels.
But it has at least two serious flaws.
First, it helps subsidize coal to liquids, which is an irredeemably bad idea, as I have argued repeatedly (here and here). Yes, the bill would require carbon capture and storage, but even so, the process still generates high-carbon diesel fuel. Also, such storage would take up the space in underground geologic repositories that could otherwise be used for storing carbon dioxide from future coal plants, which results in carbon-free electricity — vastly superior to high-carbon diesel fuel.
Second, the bill would "prevent California and other states from taking independent action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions," as noted by Environment & Energy Daily (sub. req’d — article reprinted below). In an email, David Hawkins, director of NRDC’s Climate Center, called this provision "absolutely unacceptable."
Others who question this provision can be found in today’s E&E Daily:
CLIMATE: Boucher bill would block Calif. on auto emissions
Alex Kaplun, E&E Daily reporter
Draft energy legislation offered by a key House Democrat this week would prevent California and other states from taking independent action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill from Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (Va.) would establish a fuels mandate and vehicle efficiency provisions as part of a broad energy package to be marked up by the full Energy and Commerce Committee later this month (E&E Daily, June 4).
Boucher’s bill includes a provision that would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the U.S. EPA administrator from granting waivers to states on automobile emission rules if "such standards are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
California and several other states are embroiled in a long-running legal and political battle with the auto industry over whether states have the right to set their own policies concerning vehicle GHG emissions.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, questioned the inclusion of the language.
"I am very concerned about pre-empting the rights of states to set strong standards to save energy and reduce global warming pollution," Markey said in a statement that also criticizes the bill’s fuel economy provisions. "If we aren’t careful we could end up making our situation worse, not better."
Frank O’Donnell, head of the group Clean Air Watch, said he anticipates the bill’s language will run into fierce opposition from several lawmakers — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
"It’s astonishing — maybe they thought nobody would notice," O’Donnell said. "You can be certain that environmental and health groups will be sounding the alarm among key lawmakers on the committee."
California officials likewise criticized Boucher’s legislation, saying it was inappropriate for Congress to take action to limit state authority in this arena.
"While we desire and support a national standard that will deliver real results, we need to continue moving forward, not backward," said CalEPA spokeswoman BreAnda Northcutt. "Boucher’s bill appears to be singling out California’s climate action efforts, and the 11 additional states that have adopted our standards, and tying our hands."
Hill sources who support the Boucher bill would not comment on the record in response to the criticism.