Five influential coal-state Senate Democrats floated draft legislation today they say would help with the widespread commercial deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Arlen Specter and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania stand out among a group of eight Democrats calling on the Environment and Public Works and Finance committees to include a range of special incentives for the electric utility and coal industries in cap-and-trade legislation this fall.
They requested several changes to the House-passed climate bill, H.R. 2454, including more funding and bonus allowances to power companies as they face greenhouse gas emission limits on their new and existing plants. That would essentially allow power plant owners to collect more money in allowances as they sequester more emissions.
Separately, the group suggested an exemption from new greenhouse gas technology standards on coal mines and landfill methane projects. Instead, they asked for both to be added to the list of domestic offset projects that industry could fund as an alternative to making their own direct emission reductions.
A Senate Democratic aide said this change could result in expanding the domestic offset pool by as much as 45 percent.
Without going into specifics, the group also urged the Senate to include language that addresses the legal liability for long-term carbon storage. And it encouraged the establishment of a $10 billion, 10-year program that would help get carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology into widespread use around the country -- something that already is in the House-passed bill.
The senators also want to include a congressional finding that "it is in the public interest to achieve widespread, commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage, both in America and throughout Asia before January 1, 2030."
The draft language is the result of a working group led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) established in April as part of a broader outreach campaign to senators who do not sit directly on the relevant committees writing the climate bill (E&E Daily, April 23). Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also signed onto the draft language.
"We believe our nation needs all sources of energy -- including coal -- to meet our future demands," the group wrote to EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "We also know that other countries, such as China and India, depend heavily on coal as an energy resource. Therefore, widespread, commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technology for coal will be critical if we are to meet our national and global climate goals."
The senators said it is "imperative" that their legislative suggestions make it into the final climate change bill, though none of them promised that these requests alone would win their vote. Each said they have "other priorities" as the Senate forges ahead with its sweeping energy and global warming package.
Byrd joins climate talks
And more than any other, Byrd stands out for his role in the group by helping to craft even a small piece of the Senate climate bill. Byrd has long questioned the push for cap-and-trade legislation as a solution to global warming, and he issued a statement this summer saying he could not support the House-passed climate bill "in its present form."
In a statement today, Byrd said his signature is part of an ongoing effort to nudge climate policy toward the promotion of new, low-carbon energy technologies.
"If our nation is to benefit from the next generation of clean coal technology, the private sector needs greater certainty and robust financial support in order to make the necessary investments," Byrd said. "I will continue to engage the administration and the Senate to make sure that West Virginians have a seat at the table during this climate debate."
Two groups working to pass climate legislation offered early praise for the coal-focused recommendations.
"We're very encouraged to see such a diverse group of senators working together, making progress, and moving climate legislation forward," said Tony Kreindler, a spokesman at the Environmental Defense Fund.
"It is a good-faith effort to address the legal and regulatory barriers to widespread deployment of CCS," added Paul Bledsoe of the National Commission on Energy Policy,
Click here to read the group's letter to Boxer.
Click here to read the group's letter to Baucus.
Click here to read the legislative recommendations to the EPW Committee.
Click here to read the legislative recommendations to the Finance Committee.