Lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan carbon fee bill

By Nick Sobczyk

GREENWIRE, Jan. 24, 2019

A group of House lawmakers today reintroduced a benchmark bipartisan carbon pricing bill, giving the legislation a few fresh faces for the new Congress.

The "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act" 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.

Climate Solutions Caucus Chairman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) is the lead sponsor of the bill, joined by his expected Republican co-chairman and fellow Floridian Rep. Francis Rooney.

The measure was the first bipartisan carbon pricing legislation in a decade when it was first introduced in November of last year, and it quickly got a companion in the upper chamber, led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Supporters see it as a landmark, a sign the Republican Party is inching toward climate action after years of science denial driven by industry and conservative politics.

"Climate change is an urgent threat that demands urgent bipartisan action," Deutch said in a statement. "With this legislation, we are making clear to our colleagues that bipartisanship is possible — even necessary — to address climate change in this Congress."

Still, the bill currently has just one GOP co-sponsor — Rooney — and the Republican Senate still appears unlikely to take any major action to address climate change.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, one of the House Republican leads on climate and environmental issues, told E&E News this morning he would likely hop on as a co-sponsor.

But Fitzpatrick is also taking the lead on reintroducing the "MARKET CHOICE Act," the carbon tax bill first floated by then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) last year.

The other co-sponsors on the "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act" are Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).

The bill is largely the product of years of work by Citizens' Climate Lobby, the group behind the Climate Solutions Caucus, which has long lobbied for its vision of carbon fee and dividend legislation.

With Democrats in control of the House, the group thinks its bill actually has a shot at passing in this session, said CCL spokesman Steve Valk, though the Republican Senate remains a hurdle.

There have been a few technical changes to the measure since it was introduced just a few months ago (E&E Daily, Nov. 28, 2018).

For one thing, the emissions targets have been updated, in part to reflect projected enactment in 2020, and the annual increase in the carbon fee will now be adjusted for inflation.

Supporters say the current version of the bill would reduce carbon pollution by up to 45 percent by 2030 and more than 90 percent by 2050, all compared with 2016 levels.

The current measure, as it did last year, would also exempt agricultural fuels and toss out certain EPA greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources. But vehicle fuel efficiency standards and methane regulations would stay in place, and regulatory authority would be restored if cumulative emissions targets aren't met after 10 years.

EPA regulatory authority has been a sticking point for conservative climate change groups such as the Climate Leadership Council, which argues for a market-based approach to climate change.

Those organizations have coalesced around the "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act," though they're expecting a handful of other carbon pricing bills to be introduced in this Congress.

Regulatory reform has been a sticking point for Rooney, too, as he looks to take the Republican reins on climate change.

"I am supportive of a carbon fee as a non-regulatory, revenue-neutral and market-driven incentive to move toward natural gas and away from coal, and to support emerging alternate sources of energy," Rooney said in a statement.

"There are many proposals being suggested as to utilizing monies a carbon tax might generate, each with its own strengths and weaknesses — there are several favorable options, and this bill provides a method of ensuring that any fees are rebated back to the public."