White House raises objections to bipartisan proposal to reduce use of heat-trapping chemicals

White House raises objections to bipartisan proposal to reduce use of heat-trapping chemicals
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The White House is raising objections to a bipartisan Senate measure that would aim to phase down the use of heat-trapping chemicals in air conditioners and refrigerators. 

Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report 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 (D-Del.) are proposing an amendment to a major energy bill by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Most Americans think winner of election should pick next Supreme Court justice: poll Murkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinNames to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Gardner on court vacancy: Country needs to mourn Ginsburg 'before the politics begin' MORE (D-W.Va.) to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 

The amendment could become a major sticking point.

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Kennedy told reporters he would hold up the entire bill in order to include the proposal. At the same time a White House communication to bill managers that was obtained by The Hill says the administration "strongly objects to the Kennedy/Carper amendment."

"The transition from hydrofluorocarbon use in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry is a matter that should be applied consistently across the country," it continues. "Therefore, this amendment must include a strong state preemption clause. We also have concerns with a policy that mandates significant changes for the private sector and mandates consumers buy new products without any consideration of cost."

Kennedy acknowledged to reporters that he had heard the White House wanted a state preemption clause, which would prevent states from enacting stricter rules than those that apply across the country.

"We were negotiating toward that and making what I thought was great progress," he said, but added that he felt the requests being made were more like "excuses" than reasons. 

He also said some of his Republican colleagues have said they want to see a preemption measure. 

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A spokesperson for Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMurkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates MORE (R-Wyo.) told The Hill in an email that the lawmaker is among those hoping for preemption language. 

"Before any merits associated with the amendment’s other provisions can be discussed, consumers and businesses need to be assured of clear rules and regulatory certainty," the spokesperson said. "The Chairman has concerns with any legislative effort that will layer new federal rules on a patchwork of current or future state rules. Since the bill has had no process, there are other problems with the way the amendment is constructed that can be fixed if and when real preemption is added. Chairman Barrasso will not support the amendment as currently drafted."

Speaking on the Senate Floor, Kennedy urged his colleagues not to object to the amendment. 

"It doesn't mean to have to vote for it," he said. "You can vote against it. But please let the entire body have a vote. Because that is what democracy is supposed to be about."

On the Senate Floor, Carper spoke in favor of the amendment, saying it would be "good for the planet and the people who inhabit it."

 "It could help avoid up to a half-degree Celsius in terms of our climate, our temperature on the planet," he said. 

Regarding preemption, he added, "allowing the states to act helps hold the federal government accountable, but once a strong federal program in place, states won't need to act and can spend their resources elsewhere."

The amendment is one of many proposed additions to the fast-moving energy legislation, which could be the best chance this year for passing legislation to expand the use of cleaner forms of energy.

Updated: 9:30 p.m.