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 calls on EPA to withdraw 'secret science' rule Blame game heats up as Senate motion fails Democratic senators, attorneys general slam proposal to roll back protections for birds MORE (D-Del.) are proposing an amendment to a major energy bill by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break Turning the virus into a virtue — for the planet MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinWhite House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on Senate fails to advance coronavirus stimulus bill for second time in two days 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 BarrassoOvernight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate 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."

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 "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.