Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is plotting an aggressive course on climate change in the new Congress.
An aide said his staff is working on a broad piece of climate legislation for introduction early in the next Congress, in what would largely be a messaging effort to lay groundwork for 2020, when Democrats could control the Senate and the White House.
While it’s not clear yet that the legislation would be explicitly associated with the Green New Deal platform being pushed by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), it would share many of the same principles.
That includes a transition to 100 percent renewable energy and big investments in clean energy technology and green infrastructure.
"It has the aroma of a Green New Deal, if you will," the aide said.
The bill would be similar to many of the ambitious progressive measures Sanders introduces, such as his perennial Medicare for all proposal.
But it would take on greater importance at a time when a new crop of progressive House lawmakers are flexing their muscles on climate change and pushing the party leftward on the issue.
Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a select committee in the next Congress that would be tasked with crafting a Green New Deal by 2020.
And Sanders will host a town hall on Capitol Hill tonight, when Ocasio-Cortez is expected to appear alongside other big names in the environmental world, including actress Shailene Woodley and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
Ocasio-Cortez will appear on a panel called "Creating Jobs and Building a Sustainable Economy," according to a schedule of the event.
The event won’t include a bill introduction. That will likely come in the first few months of the next Congress, the Sanders aide said.
It won’t be the first such measure Sanders has introduced. In 2015, for instance, he floated the "American Clean Energy Investment Act" with Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a similarly ambitious climate platform (Greenwire, Dec. 8, 2015).
The aide said the new proposal would look to update that measure — and the "100 By ’50 Act" he introduced with Merkley last year — to be consistent with the most recent National Climate Assessment and U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
Though the details are not finalized, some parts of the bill could also be lifted from the "Rebuild America Act," an infrastructure bill Sanders introduced in 2015.
Other possibilities are a ban on hydraulic fracturing and new fossil fuel infrastructure, getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies, and funding for public transportation to lessen the impact of the transportation sector, currently the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the aide said.
The goal, ultimately, is to help frame how progressive policymakers and grassroots groups should be thinking about climate policy headed into the next few years, the aide added.
Sanders, seen as a potential presidential candidate again in 2020, could have an opportunity to become the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year, but he has said he would prefer to decline that role and remain ranking member of the Budget Committee (Greenwire, Nov. 29).
That would leave coal-friendly Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia in the top Democratic role on the energy panel.
Still, Sanders is looking to leap ahead on climate change into the next Congress with tonight’s town hall.
"Unless we take bold and drastic action to address climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, I fear very much that the world we leave for our kids and grandkids will be in much worse shape than the world we live in today," Sanders said in a statement.