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Details of Not-Cap-And-Trade Emerge

April 23, 2010

On a phone call with supporters today, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) provided an outline of the Senate climate bill, in advance of a full rollout to come on Monday, and The Washington Post has put in handy bullet-point form. On the bottom line, the bill would reduce U.S. emissions but not nearly enough, calling for a reduction of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% reductions by 2050. Realistically, this would be a close-but-no-cigar outcome. While U.S. reductions will happen in a global context, most people in the know agree that degree of reductions by the U.S. would not be enough to avert some of the more drastic effects of climate change.

On the finer points, the bill is much as one would expect, given industry’s power in Washington – exceptions for high-pollution industries, money for “clean” coal and nuclear – but you can add another line on the con side of the ledger:

5. The bill will preempt both the states’ and EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, as long as emitters comply with the standards outlined in the measure. The EPA will monitor and enforce compliance with the law.

California has already passed AB32, a stricter emissions law, which would presumably be invalidated by this bill. This bill, then, would represent a step back for Californians, the undoing of the state’s most significant achievement in a decade. There are so many trade0ffs it’s tough to take but, ultimately, given the 41 Party of No votes in the Senate, passing even this will likely prove difficult. Those committed to averting climate change will have to hold their noses and fight.

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