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

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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 SandersDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment 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 Mason ReidBottom Line Lobbying world Democrats aim to protect Grand Canyon from 'imminent' drilling threat 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 Bruce VitterRed-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins Trump calls on Republicans to vote out Democratic Louisiana governor amid GOP infighting 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 ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFormer coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (W.Va.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (Alaska), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (La.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Ind.), among others.

Ben Geman contributed.