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Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling bipartisan energy bill

Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling bipartisan energy bill
© Anna Moneymaker

Three senators have finally come to an agreement on a provision stalling a bipartisan energy bill after months of delays.

Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE (D-Del.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) agreed to compromise with Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden EPA asks Justice Dept. to pause defense of Trump-era rules | Company appeals rejection of Pebble Mine | Energy pick Granholm to get hearing Wednesday Nomination hearing for Biden Energy pick Granholm set for Wednesday Trump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday MORE (R-Wyo.) on an amendment  that would step down the use of a powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). 

Kennedy threatened to hold up a bill by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Murkowski didn't vote for Trump, won't join Democrats MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinBiden officials hold call with bipartisan group of senators on coronavirus relief plan Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Durbin: Senate should consider changes to filibuster MORE (D-W.Va.) if their amendment wasn’t included in the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), which would boost research and development into renewable energy and technology to ease pollution from fossil fuels. 

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At the time of its introduction in late February, Murkowksi touted the AEIA as the best chance to modernize the country’s energy policies. It contained measures that had been sponsored by more than 60 senators, though some Democrats expressed concern over its provisions relating to mining and fossil fuels. 

Prior to the delay over Kennedy and Carper trying to incorporate their HFC bill into the legislation, it expected to move quickly through the Senate. 

HFCs, often used in products such as refrigerators and air conditioners, trap significantly more heat than carbon dioxide. 

The compromise amendment, like the initial provision from Carper and Kennedy aims to reduce the use of these gases over a 15-year period. It would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement an 85 percent reduction of HFC production and consumption as compared to the average annual levels from 2011 to 2013.

Prior to the compromise, Barrasso, the White House, and other critics opposed the measure because it did not include language that would have preempted states from setting their own stricter HFC standards. They argued that this would have created uncertainty for manufacturers. 

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The new amendment would prevent state and local government from regulating HFCs for at least five years, though this could be extended to 10 years if there aren’t sufficient substitute chemicals for an HFC use. 

It would also make sure there are enough supplies of HFCs for what Congress designates as essential uses such as military uses that don’t have substitute chemicals and would prevent the EPA from speeding up the regulatory timeline to be faster than “consumption levels that the market is already achieving,” according to a statement. 

In the statement, Kennedy and Carper expressed optimism about the future of HFC regulation. 

“With this agreement, we now have a clear path in Congress to enact and implement a nationwide phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons,” Carper said. “This amendment would spur billions of dollars of economic growth in domestic manufacturing and create tens of thousands of new jobs, all while helping our planet avoid half a degree Celsius in global warming.”

While Barrasso praised the compromise as protecting consumers. 

“We can have clean air without damaging our economy,” he said. “I insisted on changing this legislation so costs don’t skyrocket for American families. This agreement safeguards the critical uses of these chemicals when substitute chemicals do not work.”