The Legislative Record
Environment & The 106th Congress
Air, Energy & Global Warming
The 106th Congress was a tumultuous time for air and energy policy. Across the nation, energy prices were on a rollercoaster ride. Low prices in 1999 led to cries for subsidies for fossil fuel producers and a prolonged debate over the amount of royalties oil producers pay for drilling on federal lands. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) sparred for days on the Senate floor over the issue, with Sen. Hutchison ultimately delivering a narrow victory for the oil industry that will cost taxpayers $66 million in royalty write-offs.
But by the winter of 1999 and into 2000, the tables had turned. Energy price spikes prompted consumers, truckers and politicians to seek speedy relief. Legislation to repeal the gas tax was sponsored in both the House and Senate, but was ultimately defeated. Some argued that the repeal would divert needed funds from the highway trust fund; others objected on the grounds that repealing the tax would do little to effect supply and demand. As long as demand for gas and other forms of energy is high, prices are likely to remain high. Finally, the time has come to discuss measures to promote long-term energy policy solutions such as improving energy efficiency, diversifying the fuel mix, and increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles.
Sens. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and Robert Smith (R-N.H.) all brought bills forward in the 106th Congress that would achieve those broad objectives. But high prices also ignited old debates over short-term fixes such Sen. Frank Murkowski's (R-Alaska) proposal to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. Such a "fix" is a fig leaf: it offers rhetorical cover with little real benefit. Even if drilling occurs, the oil would meet U.S. demand for only six months. And despite the fact that two-thirds of our petroleum consumption goes to fuel transportation, the House again insisted on prohibiting the Transportation Department from even studying the potential benefits of requiring more efficient automobiles, one of the long term solutions to oil dependency.
Bills and talk of federal utility restructuring legislation were peppered throughout the 106th Congress. In its combined economic and environmental significance, the electric industry has few rivals. As markets open and consumption increases, public policy choices loom that could have profound environmental consequences. Electric utilities account for roughly 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but nearly two-thirds of the emissions that cause acid rain and one-third of national smog pollution. The environmental challenges posed by electric generation include urban and regional smog (ozone), particulates, acid deposition, excessive nutrient loads to important bodies of water, toxic impacts on health and ecosystems from mercury emissions, nitrogen saturation of sensitive forest ecosystems, and global climate change. Even that daunting list is incomplete, given other threats including disposal of radioactive waste, survival of endangered salmon fisheries, and the preservation of undammed rivers. Unfortunately, some members of Congress ignore these concerns, caving to arguments made by this $215 billion industry about the issues of reliability and marketshare. For instance, H.R. 2944, the "Electricity Competition and Reliability Act," the House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Joe Barton's (R-Texas) bill to restructure the industry and the bill that had the most consideration during the 106th Congress, completely ignores the impact of electric generation on the environment.
Luckily, other members of Congress had a different view. Several important bills to ensure that electric industry restructuring yields benefits to both consumers and the environment were introduced. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) introduced H.R. 2569, the "Fair Energy Competition Act"; Sens. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced S. 1369, the "Clean Energy Act"; Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 2900, the "Clean Smokestacks Act"; and Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 4861, the "Clean Power Act." All of these bills mandate reductions in four important pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide. Spurred by the bipartisan momentum in Congress, both presidential candidates endorsed the need to require mandatory reductions in these four major pollutants from power plants. Although no legislation was enacted, these bills set a strong marker for the 107th Congress, signaling that any federal response to utility restructuring must include provisions to ensure minimum standards for environmental protection. .
Finally, it is worth noting the deluge of campaign contributions that influenced the debate on energy and air pollution. According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, oil and gas companies have contributed nearly $100 million to federal parties and candidates since 1991; more than two-thirds of it to Republicans, and as much as $2.3 million alone to President Bush's campaign. As of early fall in 2000, oil and gas interests had contributed $21,317,326 to federal candidates. Until money is no longer a driving force in the political process and debate, the environment and the public will continue to suffer at the sidelines. .
Clean Air. The courtroom has been the major battleground for clean air protection for two years now. Shortly after EPA finalized changes to the health-based clean air standards limiting levels of ozone (smog) and fine particle pollution (soot) in the air, the American Trucking Association led an industry challenge of the standards. On May 14, 1999, a three-judge federal appeals panel resurrected a discredited legal theory called the non-delegation doctrine to overturn new air quality standards. Clean air advocates turned to the Supreme Court to salvage the standards, which are viewed as among the most important steps forward on the environment in the years. On January 27, 2000, the EPA petitioned the Supreme Court to review the decision overturning the standards. On November 7, 2000, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments but as of press time, no decision had been released. Smog and soot standards with far-reaching health protections for Americans are at stake. The new standards (in which NRDC was instrumental) will protect about 130 million Americans, including 35 million children suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses. .
On November 3, 1999, the Justice Department filed seven lawsuits on behalf of EPA against electric utility companies in the Midwest and South. The lawsuit charged 17 power plants with illegally polluting the air by failing to install pollution control equipment when they made major modifications to their plants. This action is one of the largest enforcement investigations in EPA's history and seeks to reduce pollution that degrades air quality throughout the upper Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and the Northeast. .
The 17 power plants allegedly violated portions of the Clean Air Act that many refer to as the 'grandfathering' provisions. When the Clean Air Act was amended in 1970 and 1977, two categories of requirements were created: those for existing power plants and those for new sources. At the time, most lawmakers anticipated that the existing older coal-burning plants, many which are now 30 years old, would soon be retired, making upgrades for old plants economically unjustified. .
Coal-fired power plants, however, were not retired and now are the largest industrial source of smog pollution (about 1,000 power plants operate today and 500 of them were built before modern pollution control requirements went into effect). Operators of these older power plants recovered their capital costs for construction so the plans are operated inexpensively, particularly compared to far cleaner fossil fuel-fired plants built today. .
Certain modifications to older power plants - particularly highly polluting coal-fired plants - were allowed without new pollution controls, extending their operational life. The problem, however, was that these plants were upgrading and increasing capacity to generate more power without installing pollution controls as required by law. A number of old power plants have already settled their cases with EPA by agreeing to install modern pollution abatement technology and pay billions of dollars in fines. .
Back on Capitol Hill, electric utilities affected by this enforcement action tried to get a rider attached to an appropriations bills that would block the enforcement effort. A bipartisan group of five senators, led by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), spoke out against the rider, ensuring that it never materialized. .
CLEAN AIR - STEPS BACK
Sponsor: Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), H. Amdt. A027 to H.R. 4635
Status: Enacted as part of H.R. 4635, the FY 2001 VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill (Pub. L. No. 106-377)
The single biggest legislative battle over clean air and the public's right to know took place over a rider attached to H.R. 4635, the House VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill.
In 1997, in response to a growing body of scientific evidence, EPA determined that the ozone standard was not sufficient to protect public health and issued a more protective standard, lowering the maximum exposure threshold to 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period. The new standard, according to EPA calculations, would provide additional protection to 125 million Americans. The new standard was immediately challenged in court by myriad industries, led by the American Trucking Association. In May 1999, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld EPA's authority to designate the areas that violate this new standard as "non-attainment areas" but prohibited EPA from requiring states to action on cleaning the air. Pending an expected Supreme Court ruling in the summer of 2001, EPA and the states continue to enforce the one-hour ozone standard while identifying areas that have failed to meet the new eight-hour standard. .
On June 21, 2000 during debate on the House floor, Reps. Collins and Linder offered an amendment that prohibits the EPA from identifying and designating these high smog areas as "non-attainment areas" under the new 8-hour smog standard, keeping the public in the dark about air quality in their communities. Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is a highly reactive gas that irritates the respiratory tract and can lead to permanent lung damage. Prolonged exposure to high levels of ozone is particularly dangerous for small children, senior citizens, and the millions of Americans who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases.
The Linder-Collins amendment keeps health risk information from public disclosure and delays states and businesses from planning to improve air quality. On June 21, 2000, the House approved the Linder-Collins amendment by a vote of 226-199. While the Senate bill did not include similar language, the conference report did include the rider. On October 12, Senator Boxer offered an amendment to strike the rider from the bill, but it failed in a vote of 64-31. Ultimately, the Linder-Collins language was included in the final VA-HUD bill, and was signed into law by President Clinton.
ELECTRICITY - STEPS FORWARD
A number of bills introduced during the 106th session offered a more comprehensive approach to reducing air pollution.
"The Clean Energy Act of 1999"
S. 1369, Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.)
Status: Hearings held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Introduced on July 14, 1999 by Sen. Jeffords and a bipartisan group of senators, the "Clean Energy Act" is a comprehensive electric utility restructuring bill targeted to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, reduce air pollution and curb global warming, provide low-income assistance and reliable access to electricity, and give consumers the information they need to choose clean power. The bill also contains emissions caps to reduce the full range of air pollutants - sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide - that most threaten human health and the environment. NRDC worked to advance this bill, rallying with other environmental groups to make it a major focus of the Earth Day 2000 Clean Energy Agenda.
"The Fair Energy Competition Act"
H.R. 2569, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.)
Status: Referred to the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Rep. Pallone introduced H.R. 2569, the "Fair Energy Competition Act," which, like S. 1369, is a comprehensive bill to reduce the four key air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide), improve energy conservation and efficiency, enhance the benefits of the national electric system by supporting state programs for renewable energy sources, and encourage universal and affordable electric service. Although this bill has bipartisan support, it was referred to the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power where legislation on utility restructuring has been stalled.
"The Clean Smokestacks Act"
H.R. 2900, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.)
Status: Referred to the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Environment.
Introduced on September 21, 1999 by Reps. Waxman and Boehlert and a bipartisan group of 14 cosponsors, this bill amends the Clean Air Act to eliminate the loophole that exempts dirty power plants from meeting modern pollution control standards. The bill also requires significant reductions in the four primary industrial air pollutants - sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and mercury - by 2005. The bill had 121 cosponsors in the 106th Congress and represents a solid foundation for legislation in the 107th Congress.
"The Clean Power Act"
H.R. 4861, Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.)
Status: Referred to the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Introduced late in the second session by Rep. Lazio, the "Clean Power Act" also addresses the environmental impacts electric utility restructuring by establishing tough caps on four air pollutants and encouraging the development of renewable energy resources.
ELECTRICITY - STEPS BACK
High energy prices in the winter of 1999 and soaring electricity prices in California and other parts of the nation in 2000 are driving real concerns about the reliability of our electric grid. The Department of Energy predicted brownouts and high prices throughout the summer of 2000, and indeed, California is experiencing "rolling brownouts." Congressional response has varied. Some decried corporate corruption, others blamed utility responses to state deregulation laws, some want to blame environmental protections, while others blamed the Clinton Administration. Heard only dimly amidst this chorus were calls for improvements in energy efficiency, the single most effective way to reduce demand and relieve high prices in the near-term.
Gas Tax Repeal
S. 2285, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.); H.R. 3849, H.R. 4776, Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.)
Status: Defeated on the Senate floor on April 11, 2000
Numerous bills to repeal the 4.3 cent gas tax enacted in 1993 were introduced early in 2000 as gas and energy prices started to rise. S. 2285, a bill to institute a "federal fuels tax holiday," was introduced by Sen. Lott on March 23, 2000. H.R. 3849 was introduced by Rep. Collins on March 8, 2000, and a similar bill, H.R. 4776 was reintroduced by Rep. Collins and 13 of his colleagues in June. Proponents of the repeal argued that it was needed to benefit consumers. Opponents fought back, saying the repeal would divert the primary source of funds for highway spending. Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and others focused on the need to reduce demand for energy to fundamentally alter price hikes. Modest tax relief will do little to keep prices low without improvements in energy efficiency to make a dent in our nation's appetite for gasoline. The tax repeal was debated in the Senate on March 30, 2000 and ultimately defeated in a vote of 43-56.
"Electricity Competition and Reliability Act"
H.R. 2944, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)
Status: Referred to the House Commerce; Transportation and Infrastructure; Resources; and Ways and Means Committees; hearings held in the House Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power
On September 24, 1999 House Commerce Committee Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Barton introduced H.R. 2944, a utility restructuring bill that lacks environmental protection provisions. Its stated goal is to promote competition in electricity markets and provide consumers with a reliable source of electricity, but it fails to institute strong conservation and efficiency incentives to address energy demand. It lacks a renewables portfolio standard to promote cleaner power generation, a public benefits trust fund to ensure continued support for energy efficiency, and any requirement to reduce excessive air pollution caused by power plants.
The bill was the subject of many hearings in the Commerce Committee, and Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-Va.) repeatedly attempted to achieve enough consensus to move the bill. Ultimately, because of rampant discord on several provisions in the utility restructuring debate (including frustration that environmental concerns were not addressed) this legislation was not considered fully by the Committee.
ENERGY POLICY - STEPS FORWARD
"The Energy Efficient Buildings Incentives Act"
S. 2718, Sen. Robert Smith (R-NH)
Status: Referred to the Senate Finance Committee
On June 13, 2000, Sen. Smith, introduced S. 2718, a bill that would provide tax breaks for building energy-efficient commercial buildings, schools, rental housing and new homes, which would cut energy bills 30-50 percent. The bill also would provide tax incentives for the purchase of energy-efficient air conditioners, heating and cooling systems, and solar water heating and photovoltaic systems. With incentives to produce and purchase more energy-efficient products, Americans will win with economic growth and competitiveness, lower energy bills, less air pollution, and fewer blackouts and brownouts.
S. 2718, like its predecessor, H.R. 2380, builds on concepts in the Climate Change Technology Initiative but also covers energy used in buildings. Buildings generate 35 percent of our air pollution emissions nationwide - almost double that contributed by automobiles - and that energy costs consumers and businesses $250 billion a year. If 50 percent of all new building construction reached the energy efficiency goals set in S. 2718 over the next decade, the effect on air emissions would be the same as if we had taken 20 percent of the cars off America's roads. These reductions would prevent almost 2,000 pollution-related deaths per year and consumers and businesses would save more than $40 billion.
"The Resource Efficient Appliance Incentives Act"
H.R. 4977, Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa); S. 2939 Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)
Status: Referred to the House Ways and Means Committee; Referred to the Senate Finance Committee
The "Resource Efficient Appliance Incentives Act" was introduced in August of 2000 by Rep. Nussle and Sen. Grassley with the backing of a broad, bipartisan group of stakeholders. In the next few years, new federal standards will go into effect that will substantially improve the energy efficiency of (and cut emissions generated by) new refrigerators and clothes washers, two of the largest consumers of energy in American households. The results, however, depend on how quickly these new products are sold, and speeds up the commercialization of the next generation of appliance technology by providing manufacturers with tax credits for every ultra-efficient product they sell.
"Energy Efficiency Technology Tax Act"
H.R. 2380, Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.)
Status: Referred to the House Ways and Means Committee
In the first session of the 106th Congress, Rep. Matsui introduced H.R. 2380 to create tax incentives for energy efficient technology and automobiles used in businesses and non-commercial property. Modeled largely on the Clinton Administration's Climate Change Technology Incentives proposal, the bill sought to spur investment in combined heat and power systems, geothermal power, solar hot water heaters, hybrid and electric vehicles, renewable fuels and other energy efficient technologies to reduce pollution that causes global climate change. While the bill did not pass in full, Congress did extend the tax credits for wind and biomass energy production through 2001 as part of H.R. 4810, the Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000.
"National Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals Act of 1999"
S. 935, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)
Status: Not enacted, but some Research and Development provisions implemented through an executive order
Sen. Lugar introduced a bill that directs the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Energy to cooperate and coordinate research and development of biomass industrial products and fuels. The bill passed the Senate in February 2000, but did not pass the House. These provisions were enacted as part of the tax reconciliation bill for 2000 along with small incentives for wind energy. While not as comprehensive as S. 935, they represent modest advances in encouraging clean, renewable fuels. Some of the important research and development components of this bill were implemented through executive order, putting federal agencies on a path toward developing sustainable fuels.
ENERGY POLICY - STEPS BACK
"National Energy Security Act of 2000"
S. 2557, Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Status: Considered on the Senate floor
As energy prices soared, Republicans sought to paint the problem in partisan terms, faulting the Democratic administration for lacking an effective energy policy. Sens. Lott and Murkowski sought to portray their bill, the National Energy Security Act of 2000 (S. 2557) as a comprehensive response. The bill, however, rolls back environmental protections on federal land to facilitate oil drilling, provides new subsidies for oil exploration and development, and opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. The bill both threatens sensitive wildlife habitat and fails to address the United States' consumption of petroleum energy or reduce dependence on foreign oil over the long-term. The bill offers no incentives to improve the efficiency of automobiles, even though two-thirds of U.S. petroleum use is for transportation purposes. The bill also fails to offer other efficiency incentives that could cut energy demand in half in commercial buildings, homes, and industrial applications. Finally, the bill lacks incentives for clean, renewable sources of energy that help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Oil Royalties Moratorium Rider
Sponsor: Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Peter Domenici (R-N.M.), Amendment to the FY 2000 Interior Appropriations bill
Status: Amended during the FY 2000 Interior Conference Committee but remains objectionable
One of the highest profile energy fights in the Congress came in July of 1999, when energy prices were at near-record lows and Sens. Hutchison and Domenici attached a rider to the Interior Appropriations bill that gave $60 million in oil royalty tax write-offs to major oil companies (Previous riders of this kind have already cost taxpayers another $88 million). This was done while decrying the effect of low-oil prices on the U.S. oil industry. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) led a strong fight against the rider and succeeded in striking the rider from the Senate bill under Senate Rule XVI. After a grueling debate involving two cloture votes and over 40 hours of debate, Sen. Hutchison prevailed, with the vote of 51-47.
According to the Department of Interior, oil companies deprive the U.S. Treasury of $66 million annually in royalty fees owed for oil drilling on federal lands. To prevent further underpayment of royalties, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) developed new regulations to re-assess the current royalty level. Yet, for four years, Congress prevented MMS from implementing the oil valuation rule by adding riders on Interior's annual spending bill. The rider was amended during the Interior conference committee so that it prevented the Interior Department from implementing the new regulations until March 2000, costing American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in royalties.
The oil royalty debate re-emerged in 2000 during debate over the "Energy Policy and Conservation Act," when Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) attempted to add a "royalty in kind" provision to the bill. Sen. Boxer ultimately prevailed in preventing this change that would have again shortchanged taxpayers by allowing oil companies to pay below market rates for production on public lands.
TRANSPORTATION - STEPS FORWARD
TRANSPORTATION - STEPS BACK
Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) Rider
Status: Prohibition on raising the standard enacted as part of H.R. 4475, FY 2001 Transportation Appropriations bill
Almost 30 years after the first OPEC oil embargo, the United States is still dependent on petroleum for 97 percent of its transportation energy needs. Over 40 percent of the oil we use is gasoline for cars and trucks. With average new vehicle fuel efficiencies declining, and a 21 percent increase in miles driven between 1990 and 1998, our petroleum-dependent transportation continues to rise.
CAFE standards, first implemented in 1975, helped double vehicle efficiency between 1975 and the late 1980s, directly reducing the impact of high oil prices on consumers. Despite this success, Congress has, since 1995, been inserting a provision in the Transportation appropriations bills that prohibits the Department of Transportation (DOT) from examining the need to raise the 1975 CAFE standards. As a result of this rider and the growing market share of SUVs, the average fuel economy of all new passenger vehicles is the lowest its been since 1980.
The 106th Congress continued this trend of environmentally irresponsible transportation legislation. Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) included language in the House Transportation spending bill for 2000 (H.R. 2084) that extended the CAFE freeze. On September 15, 1999, Sens. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offered an amendment to remove the rider, but it was defeated by a vote of 40-55, and the rider was again signed into law. During the appropriations process for 2001, the rider was again inserted in the House Transportation bill. However, Sen. Gorton included language in the bill to allow DOT to recommend, but not issue. a new standard after a study is undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences. The study is required to be completed by July 1, 2001. If DOT recommends a new standard, they must have it approved by congress before it could become effective. Although this language is slightly better than the House version, it still blocks DOT's ability to act without congressional interference.
The most recent rider was particularly onerous, arising as it did, during a Congress when high oil prices brought cries for relief. Recent analysis shows that CAFE standards could be raised to over 40 miles per gallon for new cars and light trucks by 2010, saving about 3 million barrels of oil per day and 69 billion over the life of our vehicles.
Transportation Conformity Rider
S. 1053, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.)
Status: Language was included as part of the FY 2001 VA-HUD Appropriations bill but was modified and is no longer objectionable.
On May 14, 1999 Sen. Bond introduced a bill to extend states' abilities to fund and build transportation projects in areas in violation of clean air standards. The transportation conformity requirements included in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments were intended to encourage medium and long-range planning to ensure that transportation infrastructure projects were consistent with local and regional clean air goals. The provision ensured that planners incorporate air quality concerns into the transportation planning process and not defer decisions about the air quality impacts of a particular project.
Allegedly to provide more security for road builders, S. 1053 allows transportation projects to proceed for one year after an area is found to be in violation of clean air standards - regardless of the project's impact on air quality - as long as a NEPA analysis is conducted within two years. In addition, the bill includes a provision that delays EPA's ability to designate areas that are not meeting clean air goals using the 1997 eight hour ozone and particulate matter standard. After that standard was promulgated, Congress included a provision in the "TEA-21" highway bill that requires EPA to designate the communities that do not meet the standard, that is, communities that are in nonattainment in July 2000. Since then, a court of appeals has held that the standard is unenforceable, but that EPA retains the authority to designate areas as nonattainment under an eight-hour ozone standard. S. 1053 delays the application of the conformity requirement for areas everywhere that would have been designated as nonattainment for that standard until approximately four years after the current litigation is finally resolved, whenever that may be. The bill creates an unnecessary and irresponsible delay that weakens the public health purpose of designation.
The bill was reported from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on February 2, 2000. On September 13th, language on applying conformity standards to areas that are in nonattainment of the new clean air standards was included as part of the Senate VA-HUD Appropriations bill, H.R. 4635. The language was modified to clarify that the delay only applies for one year, and only for areas that are newly identified as in violation of air quality standards. The narrow language is consistent with the Clean Air Act and is not objectionable.
GLOBAL WARMING - STEPS FORWARD
Despite mounting evidence that the world is warming, Congress has remained cool to taking action, instead putting obstacles in the path of significant efforts to craft a comprehensive domestic or international response to the problem. Only one bill was offered with a primary objective of comprehensively and proactively addressing global warming: S. 547, the Credit for Voluntary Reduction Act. Even so, ostensibly there has been a sea change in the general sentiment of the Congress, with even conservative senators discussing climate change on the floor and agreeing that the science warrants concern. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) held three hearings on climate change in the Commerce Committee and vowed to introduce legislation to address it in the 107th Congress.
"Credit for Voluntary Reduction Act"
S. 547, Sens. John Chafee (R-R.I.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.); H.R. 2520, Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.)
Status: Hearings held in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Referred to the House Commerce Committee
In March of 1999, Sens. Chafee and Lieberman and 12 bipartisan colleagues introduced legislation to provide industry with regulatory "credits" for taking voluntary steps to mitigate potential environmental impacts of global warming. While effective at beginning a dialogue on developing a domestic emissions trading system, the bill lacked a firm domestic emissions reduction cap and left too much to the discretion of the implementing agencies. The bill was the subject of two congressional hearings, and many stakeholder discussions took place to refine the language. Despite Sen. Chafee's efforts and dedication to advance legislation to address global warming, the bill languished after the senator's death. Rep. Lazio introduced companion legislation in the House on July 14, 1999. No hearings were held on that bill in the House Commerce Committee.
"International Carbon Sequestration Incentive Act"
S. 2540, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
Status: Referred to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee
Sen. Brownback introduced two bills to help mitigate global warming by increasing carbon storage in forests, farms, and soils. On March 10, 2000, Sen. Brownback introduced S. 2540, a bill to amend the Food Security Act of 1985 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a carbon sequestration program for owners and operators of land to enroll land in 10 year minimum contracts with the Department of Agriculture to increase the sequestration of carbon. No action was taken on this bill. Then, on July 27, 2000, Sen. Brownback and a bipartisan group of six senators introduced S. 2982, the "International Carbon Sequestration Incentive Act," a bill to address both global warming and international deforestation. This bill provides tax credits and loan guarantees for voluntary carbon sequestration projects as a means of slowing the increases of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While some of the project evaluation, review, and verification requirements must be strengthened to be environmentally protective, the bill constructively engaged agricultural and forest interests in global warming prevention efforts. Neither bill was acted upon.
Global warming addressed in power plant legislation
A number of bills were introduced during the 106th session that address global warming in a multi-pollutant strategy to regulate power plants. As mentioned above, H.R. 2569, H.R. 2900, S. 1369, and H.R. 4861, all include caps on carbon dioxide emissions. By acknowledging the full range of effects of power plant emissions on the environment, the bills would help ensure that controls to reduce one pollutant do not exacerbate another. The bills also would minimize the financial costs of complying with environmental controls by advising utility companies about what controls are required to address the full range of pollutants.
While the bills generated significant interest and support - H.R. 2900 is cosponsored by more than 120 members - none of the bills was considered by committees. The legislation should be considered early next year. Sen. Smith (R-N.H.) also has promised to convene interested stakeholders and to introduce legislation early next session to regulate power plants.
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE - STEPS BACK
Rider language known as the "Knollenberg language" (after its sponsor, Rep. Joseph Knollenberg, (R-Mich.) has been attached to virtually every spending bill for two appropriations cycles. This year, Rep. Knollenberg and Rep. JoAnn Emerson (R-Mo.) attempted to broaden the language in several bills to prohibit agencies from preparing to address global warming. For example, in House Agriculture Appropriations, H.R. 4461, Rep. Emerson included report language that prohibits funds from being used "for the Kyoto Protocol, including such Kyoto mechanisms as carbon emissions trading schemes and the Clean Development Mechanism."
The U.S. needs to be able to participate in ongoing international global warming negotiations and conduct relevant analysis to protect both the environment and national economic interests. The Knollenberg language is so unclear that it has been reinterpreted during floor deliberations on numerous occasions, and this year, Rep. Knollenberg modified his own language on the House floor to clarify that any limitations related to implementation of the Kyoto Protocol "shall not apply to activities otherwise authorized by law." Identical language was included in House versions of the Energy and Water Appropriations, H.R. 4733, and Foreign Operations Appropriations, H.R. 4811.
A debate over similar language in the House VA-HUD bill (H.R. 4635) occurred on June 21, 2000. That bill's report language went so far as to block activities "in contemplation of preparing to implement the Kyoto Protocol." Reps. John Olver (D-Mass.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) offered an amendment to clarify that the language does not affect activities that are "otherwise authorized by law." The amendment passed the House by a vote of 256-169. Five days later, the same amendment was added to the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill, H.R. 4690. Although the amendment improved the language, the Knollenberg rider remains as a constraining influence on agencies' ability to consider steps to address global warming. Ultimately, in conference it was agreed that the Knollenberg rider language on every appropriations bill would revert back to last year's language. Nevertheless, eight final appropriations bills include language whose goal is to handicap domestic efforts to combat global warming.
"Energy Policy Act of 1999," and "Climate Change Energy Policy Response Act of 1999"
S. 882, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and S. 1776, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
Status: Hearings held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Referred to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on International Security
Two bills introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Murkowski and Sen. Craig were introduced as alternatives to regulatory controls on greenhouse gas pollution. These bills emphasized voluntary emission reduction activities and reporting efforts, and authorized money for long-term research into the science of global climate change. Finally, both bills designated the Department of Energy (DOE) as the lead agency on climate change research.
While environmental groups agree that Congress should fund long-term global climate change research, these bills do nothing to advance near-term policies such as legislation placing a national cap on power plant emissions; allowing the administration to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards; offering tax incentives to consumers who purchase energy-efficient products and utilities that produce electricity from clean, renewable energy sources; and fully funding the administration's requests for research, development and deployment of clean-air and energy-efficient technologies. Instead of advancing new domestic initiatives, S. 882 creates a new climate change office within DOE and authorizes funds for research and development. But the Energy Policy Act of 1992 already established a Director of Climate Protection at DOE along with numerous Research & Development initiatives which remain persistently underfunded.
A merged version of the Craig and Murkowski bills was scheduled for committee action in the fall of 2000; however, no formal mark up was held due to disagreements between Murkowski, Craig, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Minority Member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). Sen. Bingaman was concerned that these bills did not fund for more short-term climate change solutions, such as efforts to market clean-air technologies and implement or offer tax incentives.
DAMAGE DONE TO AIR, ENERGY & GLOBAL WARMING
|ENACTED STEPS FORWARD||NONE|
|ENACTED STEPS BACK||9 SIGNIFICANT RIDERS:|
8 GLOBAL WARMING KNOLLENBERG RIDERS
Get Updates and Alerts
- Senate Energy Bill Makes Important Steps Forward But Still Has Problems
- posted by Marc Boom, 1/28/16
- House bill would cripple EPA's authority under the Clean Water Act and clear the Pebble Mine for approval
- posted by Taryn Kiekow Heimer, 12/14/15
- Merkley Legislation Aligns Federal Lands Management with Climate-Safe Future
- posted by Franz Matzner, 11/4/15
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.