Energy & Environment

Senate Democrats to introduce measure taxing major polluters


Senate Democrats are set to unveil legislation that would tax energy companies responsible for major greenhouse gas emissions to pay for the costs of climate disasters.

The Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act, sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would require between 25 to 30 of the U.S. corporations responsible for the most greenhouse gas pollution to pay $300 billion into a fund over 10 years.

The legislation would require companies to pay into the fund if they were responsible for at least .05 percent of global carbon dioxide and methane emissions between 2000 and 2019 based on data from the Treasury Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

“What we’re proposing today is a simple but powerful idea, it’s the idea that polluters should pay for the messes they cause … and those that pollute the most should pay the most,” Van Hollen said on a Wednesday press call.

“None of us believe there is any one single policy tool that can help the ongoing threat of climate change and … pay for the damage and mitigate the harm, but what we are here saying is polluters should pay,” he added.

In a document shared with The Hill, Van Hollen’s office estimated major companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron would be taxed $5 billion to $6 billion annually under the bill.

The Democratic senator pointed to other policies that could accompany the measure, such as carbon pricing and a clean-energy standard.

The exact uses of the money in the fund have not yet been determined, Van Hollen said, adding there would be a public comment period. Possible uses include building more climate-resilient infrastructure, particularly in disadvantaged communities and communities of color.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, accused major energy firms of profiting on the backs of American taxpayers, which he said the legislation would address.

“We know that the companies that pollute our planet have turned massive profits, and the American people have been left to face the health, climate and economic consequences,” he said on the call. “They have very long known that the use of their products would cause the planet to warm and yet they did nothing.”

Other co-sponsors of the measure include Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

After years of opposition, major institutions and trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have come out in favor of a tax on carbon emissions in recent months. However, Van Hollen’s proposal would go further than that, specifically targeting major players like Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

“We support a market-based, economy-wide carbon price policy as the most impactful way to meet this challenge head on and achieve meaningful progress,” American Petroleum Institute senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs Frank Macchiarola said in a statement to The Hill.

In a separate statement, Macchiarola said that “targeting a handpicked group of companies with punitive new taxes would undermine the guiding principle of neutrality embedded in our nation’s tax code and would only serve to undermine the nation’s economic recovery.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Chris Van Hollen Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Sheldon Whitehouse
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