Popular Senate carbon tariff bill gains House champions

By Emma Dumain | 09/07/2023 01:31 PM EDT

The effort now has bipartisan support in both chambers. Still, passage is far from certain.

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah).

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) chairs the Conservative Climate Caucus. Francis Chung/POLITICO

As interest grows in a Senate proposal to calculate the emissions intensity of industrial materials produced in the U.S., two lawmakers are getting ready to introduce companion legislation in the House.

It will mark an important step for the “Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency (PROVE IT) Act,” which is being viewed as a first step in building support for a policy known as a carbon border adjustment mechanism, or CBAM, that would impose tariffs on carbon-intensive imports.

Reps. John Curtis (R-Utah) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) will be the lead sponsors of a House version of the “PROVE IT Act,” their offices confirmed to E&E News on Thursday.


“Rep. Curtis has enjoyed working with Rep. Peters on the PROVE IT Act,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “While minor changes are being worked through, he believes this bill is critical given Europe’s implementation of the CBAM and the need for better data showing America’s carbon advantage and top-tier environmental performance.”

A Peters spokesperson said in a separate statement, “Rep. Peters is excited to be working with Rep. Curtis again to advance bipartisan climate policies and show that even in an age of increasing partisanship, we can still work together to advance strong environmental and energy policies.”

“Rep. Peters believes that to address climate change we must raise our standards and lead the world in providing clean and reliable energy,” the statement continued.

“We must also create a race to the top so all nations are incentivized to reduce their contribution to climate change,” the statement said. “The PROVE IT Act will provide transparency into the emissions intensity of key economic sectors across the globe and incentivize countries to continue reducing their climate footprint.”

Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).
Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). | Lenny Ignelzi/AP Photo

The two members have worked together on environmental policy in the past. Curtis, chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus, and Peters, a moderate who views changes to the National Environmental Policy Act as critical to boosting renewable projects, have discussed what a bipartisan permitting overhaul bill could look like.

They were also, in the previous Congress, co-sponsors of legislation to establish new carbon removal research and verification efforts.

While the Curtis spokesperson didn’t elaborate on what changes the Republican is seeking to the legislation, the Senate version would require the Department of Energy to study and determine the emissions intensity of nearly two dozen products made in the United States and by G-7 countries, free-trade agreement partners, foreign countries of concern and “countries that hold a substantial global market share for a covered product.”

The list of “covered products” would include aluminum, iron, steel, plastic, crude oil, lithium-ion batteries, solar panels and wind turbines.

DOE would have two years to compile a report on its findings, in consultation with EPA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Commerce and State departments. An update of the data would have to be published every five years.

Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), the Senate sponsors of the “PROVE IT Act,” have touted this framework as necessary for the data-gathering that would have to take place before any CBAM could go into effect.

They have also praised the bill’s approach as one that will bring a more diverse coalition into the conversation about the advantages of tying trade policy to carbon emissions reductions.

Republicans who have signed onto the bill so far, Cramer and Coons reiterated at an event hosted by the Climate Leadership Council on Thursday morning, are drawn to policies that would put the United States at an advantage on the world stage.

At this moment, the European Union is closing in on implementing its own CBAM. The U.S. would benefit from being able to assert knowledge about the carbon intensity of its own products, rather than have the E.U. make its own determinations — especially when U.S. emissions pale in comparison to some of the world’s largest polluters and biggest trade partners.

“In the Republican Party, we’re living in this ‘America First’ populism explosion, really,” said Cramer, “so this helps that; this speaks to that.”