House Republicans propose carbon capture and sequestration legislation

House Republicans propose carbon capture and sequestration legislation
© Greg Nash

House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled proposals focused on carbon capture and sequestration, the first of three parts of their environmental plan that rivals a recently released plan from House Democrats.

The three-pronged plan will focus on carbon capture, clean energy and conservation, said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyPelosi, McConnell clash over next coronavirus bill Pelosi scales back coronavirus infrastructure proposal Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots MORE (R-Calif.). 

The lawmakers stressed that their proposals were founded upon the principles of innovation and market acceptance, using American rather than foreign resources and finding nature-based solutions. 

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“We want a cleaner, safer and healthier environment,” McCarthy said. 

The proposal garnered criticism by environmentalists as well as some conservatives. Major GOP backer Club for Growth PAC said that the plan was bad for the economy while environmental groups criticized it because carbon capture technology is sometimes used in oil recovery. 

Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing their own sweeping legislation which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. They hope to do so through changes to many sectors in the economy such as requiring reduced emissions from the transportation sector and requiring utilities to use clean energy. 

The Republican agenda outlined Wednesday focused on a series of bills that include measures to encourage planting trees, to incentivize carbon capture and sequestration through a tax credit and to  support research and development of carbon capture and utilization technology.

“The Democrats have trained everybody to think that the only people who care about climate change are the ones who engage in hysterical alarmism or engage in real high-minded but ultimately false aspirations of ‘we’re going to decrease this much’... but they forget about the actual solutions,” said Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawHispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Annual Congressional Dinner pushed back to June amid coronavirus concerns MORE (R-Texas), who is leading a bill on carbon capture research and development. 

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His bill calls for the creation of a "hub" to focus on early-stage research and development.

The legislation also includes a bill by Rep. Bruce WestermanBruce Eugene WestermanLawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Increased competition, lower costs: A prescription to address medications PRICED out of reach Overnight Energy: New Interior rule would limit scientific studies agency can consider | Panel battles over tree-planting bill | Trump to resume coal leases on public lands MORE (R-Ark.) that calls for the Executive Branch to set targets for increased domestic wood growth to capture and store carbon. Westerman previously told The Hill that his tree-planting bill would seek to have the U.S. plant some 3.3. billion trees each year over the next 30 years. 

The set of bills came under attack from some conservatives. 

The president of the conservative Club for Growth PAC released a statement saying the group would not endorse a candidate who supports “the liberal environmental policies being pushed by Leader McCarthy."

“Besides hurting our economy, these measures will not make a single environmentalist vote for a Republican and only alienate conservatives across the country,” said Club for Growth PAC President David McIntosh.

Lawmakers who were involved with crafting the legislation pushed back against the criticism from their conservative counterparts.

“They're positive, they fit in a conservative mantle,” House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns MORE (R-Ore.) said of measures in the legislation. “They're not regulatory, they're not taxes. They're good things we all ought to be able to embrace. But that doesn't mean everybody's going to embrace them. And that's fine.”

Rep. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOvernight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations Democrat presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations despite alleged staff objections Overnight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative MORE (R-La.), who also worked on the plan, said they would continue to try and garner support despite criticism from conservatives.

“What we did is entirely consistent with conservative ideology. If folks are out there that are complaining about this, it's because we've obviously failed to accurately communicate with them, and so we’ll redouble our efforts to do so. We've done extensive outreach with members of Congress and outside groups. We’ll continue doing it,” he said. 

Environmentalists also criticized the legislation. 

"Minority Leader McCarthy is not fooling anyone. Oil subsidies are not climate solutions. Making the 45Q tax credit permanent might make Big Oil happy, but would only lead to increased fossil fuel production," said Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst with environmental group Friends of the Earth, in a statement.