Energy & Environment

House Democrats outline plan for transition to clean electricity

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Electric power transmission, May 20, 2021.

House Democrats on Thursday outlined their plan for a clean electricity payment program to be included in a $3.5 trillion spending bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a fact sheet that the initiative would define clean electricity in a way that effectively rules out fossil fuels that don’t use technology to capture their emissions.

Under the $150 billion program, a cornerstone of Democrats’ climate change goals, electric providers would receive grants if they increase the amount of of clean energy supplied to customers by 4 percent compared to the previous year.

Providers who fail to reach the 4 percent threshold would owe money to the Energy Department.

As part of the program, slated to run from 2023 through 2030, companies would be able to defer a grant or a fine for up to two years.

The proposal comes as Democrats plow ahead with their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation measure, despite some resistance from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has called for a “pause” on moving forward with the legislation. Democrats will need the support of all 50 members of their caucus in the Senate since no Republicans are expected to vote for the bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to mark up its $486.5 billion portion of the bill next week.

In addition to the clean electricity payment program, the committee’s chunk of the overall legislation would provide more funding for electric vehicles and lead pipe removal, supplementing money that’s already in the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is among those who have called for funding beyond the $15 billion in the bipartisan bill for lead pipe removal. The committee’s bill adds $30 billion to the effort, for a total of $45 billion between the two pieces of legislation.

The Democratic-only package also would add $13.5 billion for construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, electrification of industrial and medium-heavy duty vehicles and making sure that states have the resources to develop “energy transportation plans,” according to the fact sheet.

It would put an additional $5 billion toward replacing heavy-duty vehicles like refuse trucks and school buses with zero-emissions vehicles. Some of the funds would go toward affiliated infrastructure and workforce development.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, meanwhile, would provide $7.5 billion for charging infrastructure and $7.5 billion for buses and ferries that are either zero-emissions or that use fuels including liquefied natural gas and biofuels.

The fact sheet also lists a “methane fee” on pollution from the oil and gas industry. The fee, which the industry recently expressed opposition to, would hold “individual companies responsible for their own leaks and excess methane pollution.” The fact sheet does not specify a dollar amount for the fee.

The legislation additionally would provide $27.5 billion for a “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund” for climate finance institutions that support the deployment of green technologies.

Tags Chuck Schumer clean electricity Climate change Joe Manchin Paul Tonko
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