There is now a bipartisan carbon tax bill in the Senate

Source: Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, December 21, 2018

The first bipartisan carbon tax bill in a decade now has a late-breaking Senate companion.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced yesterday the Senate versionof the “Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act,” the House bill floated last month by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and other members of the Climate Solutions Caucus.

Practically, the legislation won’t mean much with the 115th Congress coming to a close as soon as today and Flake on the way out the door. But backers see it as another sign of bipartisan support that could give the bill momentum heading into the next Congress.

“Obviously Flake’s not coming back, but Coons is in discussions with some other senators, so we’ve got both chambers now interested in moving this legislation forward,” said Steve Valk, spokesman for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which has been pushing a version of the legislation for years.

“I don’t know of any climate change legislation this advanced going into the next Congress,” Valk added.

The Senate measure is largely the same as the House bill, which would put a $15-per-metric-ton fee on carbon, rising by $10 per year, with net revenue given back to households as a rebate (E&E Daily, Nov. 28).

Backers say it would reduce U.S. carbon emissions by a third in only a decade and 90 percent by 2050, all compared with 2015 levels.

“Sen. Coons and I have introduced bipartisan, revenue-neutral carbon tax legislation that provides an honest path to clean energy,” Flake said in a statement. “This free-market solution will reduce carbon pollution and encourage American innovation.”

But the two bills would treat EPA regulations differently. The House versionwould nix certain EPA greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources but restore regulatory authority if cumulative emissions targets aren’t met after 10 years.

The Senate version would not include a regulatory rollback, but there would be a review after six years to determine whether EPA regulations are still necessary.

The Senate measure came, in part, out of the close friendship between Flake and Coons. Flake has been floated as a potential primary challenger to President Trump in 2020, though he has played down that speculation.

But Flake was also the co-sponsor of the last bipartisan carbon tax bill in 2009 during his time in the House, alongside Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and then-Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.). Inglis now pushes carbon-pricing legislation in the advocacy world.

“Thanks to Senator Coons and Senator Flake, we’re now showing the American people that our plan to put a price on carbon and return the net revenue back to the American people has earned bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress,” Deutch, the Democratic co-chairman of the Solutions Caucus, said in a statement.

“I look forward to working closely with Senator Coons and my fellow House sponsors to re-introduce the legislation next year.”