Senate environment committee to hear HFC proposal stalling energy bill passage

Senate environment committee to hear HFC proposal stalling energy bill passage
© Bonnie Cash

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will hold a legislative hearing on a proposal that's become a major sticking point in negotiations surrounding bipartisan energy legislation.

Committee Chairman 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.) announced Wednesday that the committee would hold a hearing on the bill that aims to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and was introduced by 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.).

Kennedy and Carper have also been pushing for an amendment reducing the use of the heat-trapping chemicals to be added to a sweeping energy proposal 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.).

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Wednesday's statement from Barrasso announcing the March 25 hearing did not directly reference those negotiations; however, the senator did say that “the right place to vet ideas is in committee.”

“That’s why the Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a legislative hearing on Senator Kennedy and Ranking Member Carper’s bill to phase-out HFC chemicals. These chemicals are in everything from our kitchens to our cars — it’s important we get this right," he added. "I look forward to working with the members of the committee to improve the legislation so it works for all American people.”

Kennedy spokesperson Jess Andrews told The Hill in an email that the Louisiana senator will still work for a floor vote.

Asked whether Barrasso was seriously considering a markup of the HFCs legislation and about the legislative hearing's implications on the amendment negotiations, spokesman Mike Danylak told The Hill in an email that the senator "wants to have regular process for the legislation. That begins by holding a legislative hearing. We’ll see how the hearing goes."

Carper said the amendment deserves a vote on the Senate floor.

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“Two-thirds of the Senate support my amendment with Senator Kennedy to phase down HFCs by 85 percent over 15 years," he told The Hill in a statement. "It has the support of the business community – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers – and the environmental community. It’s all well and good that Chairman Barrasso has offered a hearing after all this time, but we want a vote.”

Opponents of the amendment and the bill have called for it to include language that preempts states from imposing stricter regulations on HFCs.

A Senate aide told reporters earlier on Wednesday that Carper and Kennedy have offered a compromise that would preempt states from adding additional regulations for two years.

However, Danylak told The Hill in a statement that this isn’t a “real preemption” and "will only delay the issue two years.”

Meanwhile, Murkowski told The Hill on Wednesday prior to the hearing's announcement that the matters surrounding HFCs are "an EPW issue."

"It's not my committee. I can't fix it. They can fix it," she said. "They've got to figure it out."

Updated at 1:53 p.m.