By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado Democrats and environmental groups are rallying behind tough climate control legislation introduced Wednesday in the Senate.
Following House passage this summer of controversial cap-and-trade legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Democrats in the Senate Wednesday introduced similar legislation that goes beyond the so-called Waxman-Markey bill.
“Passage of a clean energy bill is so important,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who joined fellow Democrats, including Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Barbara Boxer of California, at a news conference on Capitol Hill announcing the more than 800 pages of draft legislation. “To put it bluntly, we are not going to create the jobs we need for the future if we allow China, Europe and other countries to outpace us in the race for energy security.”
The Boxer-Kerry legislation would hike emission cuts to 20 percent below 2005 levels from the 17 percent target in the House. It aims at reducing smokestack emissions of carbon dioxide 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels.
The bill would also answer calls by environmental groups to give the Environmental Protection Agency more control over emissions. The bill would grant the EPA the authority to set emissions standards when issuing permits for existing power plants — a stark difference from the House bill that would place boundaries on the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions.
Like the Waxman-Markey proposal, the Senate plan also calls for a cap and trade system for replacing fossil fuels with alternative energies to power factories and produce electricity.
Under cap and trade, ever-declining carbon dioxide emission limits would be imposed and companies would be allowed to sell to each other, through a regulated market, the pollution permits controlling those emissions.
Critics of such a system — mostly Republicans and industry groups — argue that increased costs would be passed on to Americans, especially to low-income families.
The Lakewood-based Western Business Roundtable recently said such legislation would levy “crushing new costs” on citizens in the midst of an economic downturn.
“The Waxman-Markey bill in Congress, as well as other highly complicated regional efforts to impose cap-and-trade schemes on the economy, are on political life support now primarily because citizens have awakened to the crushing costs, job losses and market uncertainty these bills would inevitably cause,” said Jim Sims, chief executive of the conservative Western Business Roundtable.
Some environmental groups, however, are calling for even more stringent legislation, including a national renewable energy portfolio standard of 25 percent by 2025.
But Dana Hoffman, energy associate at Environment Colorado, said the Boxer-Kerry bill is a step in the right direction, and added that Colorado can offer inspiration to the rest of the nation for making the switch to renewables and cutting back on toxic greenhouse gas emissions.
“(The Boxer-Kerry) announcement shows that the (Obama) administration is looking to states like Colorado as shining examples of the power of a clean energy future,” said Hoffman.
“The bill introduced in the Senate (Wednesday) is an important next step in putting this country on sound a foundation of clean energy that will increase our national security and improve our economy while protecting our environment,” Hoffman continued.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet did not attend the news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, but in a statement told the Denver Daily News that he is supporting the bill.
“It’s time for a new way forward,” he said. “It’s time we harness the potential of our entrepreneurial spirit and our abundant clean energy resources to create a more sustainable path for the future. We can and must lead the world to a new energy economy.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters