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Environment & Energy Report

Democrats Eye Plan to Cut Carbon Emissions With Existing Law (2)

July 23, 2019, 6:19 PMUpdated: July 23, 2019, 9:14 PM

A bill from Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) set for introduction this fall would be among Democrats’ first steps to drastically phase down carbon emissions across the U.S. economy.

The legislation, dubbed the 100% Clean Economy Act of 2019, would mandate agencies to use their existing authorities to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Even if it passed the House, the bill would face a near-impossible path in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The bill “directs our federal government to make sure that they get this done across the economy, not just one sector of the economy,” McEachin told Bloomberg Environment.

It is building support from environmental organizations, as well as environmental justice and climate justice groups, he said.

The Environmental Defense Fund, League of Conservation Voters, and Center for American Progress are among the groups supporting the general idea behind the bill.

Agency actions could include regulations, economic incentives, investments in research and development, steps to reduce emissions within the agency, and “any other action appropriate to achieve the national goal,” according to a fact sheet seen by Bloomberg Environment.

A 100% clean energy economy “means replacing carbon-polluting energy with wind, solar, and other clean sources of energy across all sectors of our economy—from transportation and manufacturing to electricity—and making no more climate pollution than we remove from the atmosphere,” according to the fact sheet.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats rolled out their plan to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at a July 23 news conference, where McEachin joined Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), environment subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), energy subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), and other members at the event.

A Bit Late?

The committee’s Republican minority criticized Democrats ahead of the news conference, calling the move “a bit late more than 200 days into the Congress.”

“Of course, the progressive left is agitating for extremism, since they have little to show other than nonbinding resolutions after six months in the majority,” Energy and Commerce Republicans said in a press release.

So far this Congress, Democrats have only passed one major bill on climate change: H.R. 9, a bill to force the U.S. to stay in the Paris climate agreement, that passed the House on May 2.

The Energy and Commerce Leaders may also face backlash from the more progressive wing of its party for not picking a more aggressive target than 2050. The Green New Deal resolution (H.Res. 109) introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), calls for a “10-year national mobilization” that includes 100% zero-emission power generation, among other goals.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office declined to comment on the announcement.

Pallone said at the event that Democrats sought to align their goals with those of the scientific community.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report states that global net emissions must cancel out by the second half of the century—meaning as much carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere than is entering— to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The 2050 benchmark is used by many countries and jurisdictions, including the European Union, to measure climate progress, Pallone said.

“We just think that this target is more realistic,” he said.

‘Very Consistent’ With the Green New Deal

Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president of political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the 2050 clean economy goal is compatible—not in competition— with the Green New Deal.

“100% clean by 2050 is a very ambitious goal, and we’re going to need to make lots and lots of progress in the first 10 years to put us on that path,” she told Bloomberg Environment. “The Green New Deal is very consistent with this legislation.”

The clean economy legislation sets a path toward a long-term goal, Gore said. The aim is to lay the groundwork for support across the spectrum of political views in both political parties.

Under the proposed bill, the Environmental Protection Agency would be responsible for evaluating the agencies’ plans and providing recommendations. The agency would be required to submit an annual report on the progress made to reduce emissions by 2050.

The bill also would establish an advisory committee of nongovernmental authorities to provide recommendations for interim and long-term goals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Stecker in Washington at tstecker@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Steven Gibb at sgibb@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com