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Democratic senator pushes for clean electricity standard

Democratic senator pushes for clean electricity standard
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster Senator notices mismatching shoes at trial: 'I had a lot on my mind' MORE (D-Minn.) on Thursday pushed for the adoption of a clean electricity standard, and for potentially using budget rules that sidestep the filibuster to get it done.

“We have to understand that this transition will happen and we can either choose to lead in this clean energy transition, or we can follow,” Smith told reporters Thursday. 

“The clean electricity standard is a powerful tool for realizing this positive transition,” she added. 

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Smith praised a report that would have all U.S. electricity standards come from clean sources by 2035, calling it "excellent."

She made the remarks during a press conference on the release of a report from the group Evergreen and the progressive pollster Data for Progress. 

President Biden also pledged to make the country’s power sector carbon-free by 2035 while he was campaigning. 

The report argues that budget reconciliation rules could be used to adopt the standard.

Under those rules, a package of proposals can be moved through the Senate and can not be filibustered, as long as it meets certain requirements.

Democrats are now planning to use the rules to move a COVID-19 relief package through the Senate without needing GOP votes.

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The report argued that it could meet the budget reconciliation requirements for a change in revenues or budget overlays by creating a market for zero-emission electricity credits that electric providers can earn by generating power from clean sources. These credits could then be bought from or sold to other providers. 

It notes that these sources would include renewables, nuclear and hydropower. 

“I am open to all of the tools that we might have available to us to get a clean electricity standard passed as part of a significant infrastructure bill,” Smith said when asked about reconciliation. 

It's possible the standard wouldn't win support from every Democrat in the Senate, however.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner last month, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  All eyes on Manchin after COVID-19 aid passes Senate Justice: 'I'm not going to get in a food fight with Joe Manchin' on use of CARES Act funds MORE (D-W.Va.) expressed skepticism about the idea of imposing a clean electricity standard. 

“The market will take you there,” he said. “We have moved the date farther ahead than we ever thought we would have, and we have done it without total mandates.”

Smith, in 2019, introduced a bill pushing for a clean electricity standard that aimed to reduce emissions from the sector by almost 80 percent by 2035 and have it almost reach near carbon neutrality by the 2050s.

In 2018, the electricity sector accounted for 27 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.