Republicans eye legislation to rival Democrats' sweeping climate plan

Republicans eye legislation to rival Democrats' sweeping climate plan
© Greg Nash

Republicans are working on their own climate plan, teeing up legislation after Democrats unveiled sweeping climate legislation last week.

Republicans will meet Thursday to discuss the broad points of the legislation in an effort led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Ginsburg becomes the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol MORE (R-Calif.).

"This is a policy conference to discuss how conservative solutions have been the greatest driver of emissions reductions in the world and how these principles are the road map for a cleaner environment here at home and around the globe," Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, told The Hill, stressing that it was not a response to the Democrats' plan.

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GOP lawmakers active in the energy sphere said the plan would likely build upon a package of a dozen pieces of legislation that House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans organized as part of their 2020 agenda.

“This is a leader issue,” committee ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver House passes sweeping clean energy bill Hillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars MORE (R-Ore.) told The Hill. “We have some ideas I think will be incorporated there.”  

The Republicans' plans follow a broad package being developed by Democrats that requires 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, a mandate that includes a clean energy credit trading system. The transportation sector would also have to be emissions free by that deadline, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratcheting up increasingly tight vehicle standards.

Under the Democrats' plan, buildings and industry would also have to clean up their act, using materials from more environmentally friendly sources while meeting stricter building codes.

When the framework was rolled out, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) chastised some Republicans for being "climate deniers," so legislation from Republicans could help combat a perception that the party has not taken action on climate change.

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GOP lawmakers listed off a variety of known priorities that could be included in a Republican response.

“I think that the most important thing is that we don't go out there and act emotionally, and I think that just throwing out these random targets, while it's really easy to digest and you can go explain it to the public and market it very easily, if you don't actually have the technological basis or the proof of success or concept, then you're actually leading down a dangerous path,” said Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesHouse GOP seeks to cement Trump rollback of bedrock environmental law Oil and gas is a partner — not an adversary — in meeting our economic and environmental goals OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium MORE (R-La.) in a nod to various plans that have called for decarbonizing the economy in just a few decades.

Republicans have often touted innovation as a solution to climate change, arguing that the U.S should be spurring more research and development in green research, including carbon capture.

Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusBottom line Bottom Line Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic MORE (R-Ill.) also pointed to the 12 bills packaged together by Republicans, which aim to boost nuclear energy, promote carbon capture and improve forest management. 

“My guess is some of that’s in there,” he said.

Republicans have often pushed back against Democrats’ climate ideas, arguing previous efforts — including a bill to recommit the U.S. to the Paris climate accord — put too much of a burden on the country without demanding action from other countries, a point Graves reiterated Wednesday.

“We've been pretty clear that the first thing that we need to be doing on this is recognizing that the United States by itself can't solve this problem. We need to be focusing on resiliency efforts,” Graves said, referring to efforts to help bolster communities, especially coastal ones, from the effects of climate change. 

The Democrats’ legislation, the CLEAN Future Act, is still being developed, but a more expanded draft is expected later this month.