Democrats push bills to price carbon emissions

Source: Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) have reintroduced legislation to put a price on carbon emissions.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) also introduced a bill yesterday to mitigate the impact of global warming on women and girls around the world. The measure has 19 co-sponsors.

The emissions measure, the “American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act,” is an updated version from the legislation Democrats introduced last year.

It now reflects recent changes in the tax code. The bill, backers say, would significantly lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions while boosting the economy.

“A carbon fee is the way economists of all stripes say we should end the massive subsidy to the fossil fuel industry and reduce carbon pollution,” Whitehouse said in a statement.

“Our bill would harness the power of markets to ensure carbon polluters pay for the harm of their products, and then return the revenue directly to the American people,” he said. “That would mean a win for our environment, a win for our economy, and a win for American families.”

The legislation would set a fee at $50 per metric ton of emissions in 2019, reflecting the midrange of President Obama’s estimate of the social cost of carbon. The fee would increase 2 percent annually above inflation.

The fee would be adjusted to take into account methane emissions from venting and flaring. The Treasury Department would be tasked with assessing and collecting the fee.

“Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We need bipartisan leadership, and market-based solutions have support across the ideological spectrum,” Schatz said in a statement.

“Our bill would establish a set of incentives that allows capital to flow and businesses to thrive when they use clean energy, letting the free market hold polluters accountable,” he said. “The price on carbon in our bill is predictable, straightforward, and gets the carbon pollution reductions we need to fight climate change.”

Revenue generated would be used to fund an annual inflation-adjusted $800 refundable tax credit for workers to offset payroll taxes.

It would also be used to give $10 billion annually in grants to states to help low-income and rural households, help workers transition to new industries, and aid communities in mitigating global warming impacts, among other uses.

“Climate disruption is not going away — it is only getting worse. Putting a price on carbon is an imperative,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

“It’s past time that Congress update our public health policies and our tax code to reduce carbon pollution and ensure we have a safer climate for future generations,” he said.

While the notion of a carbon tax has gained steam in conservative and libertarian communities, the measure does not have Republican co-sponsors.

Lee’s bill, the “Women and Climate Change Act,” H.R. 4932, would address the disproportionate impact global warming could have on women and girls, and support global efforts to mitigate those risks.

“Climate change is already impacting communities around the world, with a disproportionate effect on the world’s poorest residents. Women make up the majority of the world’s poor and are especially vulnerable to abrupt changes in the environment,” Lee said in a statement.

“As climate change worsens, provoking historic droughts, rising sea levels and violent storms, women and girls will bear the brunt of this global crisis,” she said. “My legislation, the Women and Climate Change Act, encourages approaches to climate change mitigation that uplift, include and empower women.”

The Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood have both endorsed the bill.