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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 BarrassoSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G 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 CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities | Montana asks court to throw out major public lands decisions after ousting BLM director | It's unknown if fee reductions given to oil producers prevented shutdowns Democrats allege EPA plans to withhold funding from 'anarchist' cities Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress 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 clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSusan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw 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.