Sen. Boxer hopes to bring climate legislation to floor by summer

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she plans to move a comprehensive climate bill through her committee and to the floor by this summer.

Boxer called the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Trump set to sign offshore drilling order Meghan McCain: Obama 'a dirty capitalist like the rest of us' Dems might begin again with Kamala Harris and California MORE (I-Vt.), “the gold standard” for climate legislation. She said she has not yet discussed securing floor time with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.), noting that would come after her committee marks up and potentially passes the bill.

“We’re going to go in earnest to this topic and this bill" after the committee deals with the Water Resources Development Act, Boxer said during a Thursday news conference.

ADVERTISEMENT
Sanders said he also has not talked with Reid about the bill, which would put a price on carbon emissions and be the first major climate legislation to hit the floor in close to four years. While he hasn't discussed specifics with Reid, Sanders noted the Nevada Democrat is “sympathetic” to climate issues.

President Obama called on Congress in his State of the Union address Tuesday to pass a "market-based" climate measure before pledging to exercise executive authority if lawmakers fail to act.

And while the bill's passage in the Senate — much less the GOP-controlled House — is unlikely, bringing it to the floor would signal Democrats want a more public political battle on climate change.

Republicans are likely to try to block bills that impose a price on carbon, saying the economy can ill afford such measures. The carbon fee also will meet resistance from a bloc of centrist Democrats whose constituents spend a higher than average level of their income on gasoline and electricity.

Sanders said the bill contains provisions to minimize the effects of energy cost increases on consumers. And while Sanders said climate action is most likely to come from the president in the next two years, he noted, “We will never fully deal with this crisis until Congress passes strong legislation.”

The bill’s carbon fee would affect 2,869 of the largest fossil fuel producers, returning 60 percent of the revenues generated to U.S. residents to offset costlier energy, Sanders said. The federal government would use the rest of those funds to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, job training programs and research and development.

The carbon fee would generate $1.2 trillion in the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It also would slash greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The bill also would require the gas drilling industry to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The practice injects a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into tight-rock formations to tap natural gas and oil.

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program, said he thinks businesses could come around to support the bill. He said the legislation could offer more predictable policy compared with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions rules. EPA has begun moving ahead with climate regulations, and advocates want a more aggressive effort on that front during Obama's second term.

“This bill provides an awful lot of certainty,” Slocum told The Hill on Thursday.

Republicans will almost certainly try to block the bill.

“It’s not just energy prices that would skyrocket from a carbon tax, the cost of nearly everything built in America would go up. Let’s not lose sight of how big of a dud cap and trade was in 2009, or as it came to be known, cap and tax. This is really no different,” Sen. David VitterDavid VitterFormer senator who crafted chemicals law to lobby for chemicals industry Former GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel Lobbying World MORE (R-La.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Republican, said in a Thursday statement.

The bill cannot afford to lose many Democrats if it hopes to clear the upper chamber. Some Democrats from oil-patch states and those that rely heavily on coal-fired power or spend a disproportionate amount of household dollars on gasoline would likely reject it.

Those Democrats likely include Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general MORE (W.Va.), Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampLawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Overnight Regulation: Senators call for 'cost-effective' regs | FCC chief unveils plans to roll back net neutrality Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform MORE (N.D.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (La.) and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyWhat prospective college students need to know before they go — or owe Battle begins over Wall Street rules GOP rep to potential Senate rival: Don't run MORE (Ind.), among others.

Ben Geman contributed.