Overnight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit

Overnight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit
© Greg Nash

DRAFTED: Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday unveiled a draft of their new climate plan which aims for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.

The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's (CLEAN) Future Act, the draft of which is more than 600 pages long, would force dramatic changes in many sectors of the economy, from pushing utilities to work toward 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050 to requiring the transportation sector to reduce emissions not just from cars but also from airliners.

However, the legislation is much broader, pushing for cleaner buildings, efforts to force industry to clean up their supply chain, and a host of new regulations targeting pollution from the energy industry.

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It puts the onus on states to play a role in ensuring that the entire nation reaches its carbon-neutral goal, while creating a first-of-its-kind National Climate Bank to help spur the technological developments needed to get there.

What's next: Democrats expect feedback from stakeholders ranging from the energy industry to environmental groups, but any eventual package would likely face resistance in the Republican-held Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (R-Ky.) has refused to bring a number of climate-focused bills to the floor.

The details: New details of the plan spell out a 28-year path for utilities to switch to clean sources of energy, requiring utilities to diminish their share of carbon-producing energy by one-twenty-eighth each year.

Those who are unable to keep pace with their goals could buy clean energy credits from other utilities, paying an increasing price each year for every kilowatt hour produced by dirtier energy sources.

But the legislation caps that price in 2050, in theory allowing companies to pay a high price if they don't meet the 2050 carbon neutrality goal – something framers of the legislation argue is unlikely.

But it's not all smooth sailing: That portion of the bill is already proving to be controversial, drawing criticism from both environmental groups and Republicans.

"This broad legislative package includes some policies that would be clear steps forward to address the climate crisis – but it's concerning that on what is perhaps the central question of climate policy, what counts as clean energy, this bill includes options that could leave a door open to gas and coal," the Sierra Club said in a statement on the legislation.

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"If you've got to have a credit and you've got to have auctions, then that feels a lot like cap and trade," Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative GOP climate plan faces pushback — from Republicans Coalition plan seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035 MORE (R-Ore.), the ranking member of the committee, said when the plan was first outlined earlier this month.

Read more about the newly released details

 

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EXTRA CREDITS: A group of Republican senators is pressing the IRS for information about how it enforces the electric vehicle tax credit, after a Treasury Department watchdog found that millions of dollars of credits were potentially claimed erroneously. 

In a letter dated Monday to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, the senators said they want information about "what appear to be systemic problems" with the tax-credit program.

Fifteen GOP senators signed the letter, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Iowa), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWhistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Wis.), and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (R-Wyo.).

In 2011, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report finding $33 million worth of plug-in electric and alternative motor vehicle credits were claimed erroneously from Jan. 1 through July 24, 2010. TIGTA said that the IRS didn't have adequate processes to ensure that information from taxpayers claiming the credits met qualifying criteria.

In September 2019, TIGTA issued another report finding that while "the IRS has taken steps to address some of TIGTA's previous recommendations to improve the identification and prevention of erroneous credit claims, many of the deficiencies previously identified still exist." The report, which examined credits claimed from 2014 to 2018, found more than $70 million in potentially erroneous plug-in credits claimed. 

The Republican senators wrote in their letter that "it is troubling that these improper payments continue and have more than doubled in size in the eight years since they were first reported." 

The big picture: The letter comes as a number of lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have expressed interest in expanding electric vehicle tax credits. A few Republicans have joined with Democrats in backing an expansion, but many others have been highly critical of the credits.

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Read more here.

 

POLLUTED: About one-third of the U.S. population was living in areas that experienced at least 100 days of poor air quality due to air pollution in 2018, a new study has found. 

That year, 108 million Americans lived in areas where ground-level ozone or particulate pollution was above the level that the Environmental Protection Agency says presents "little to no risk," according to a report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center. 

The report, which was released Tuesday, said that the most populous areas with more than 100 days of elevated air pollution include the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin areas. 

It also said that several other metropolitan areas such as the New York-Newark-Jersey City area and the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria areas had between 31 and 100 days of elevated air pollution. 

"Each year, millions of Americans suffer from adverse health impacts linked to air pollution, and tens of thousands have their lives cut short," the report said. 

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It recommended that policymakers strengthen air quality protections, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut global warming pollution. 

"No one should have to experience one day of polluted air -- let alone 100 days a year, " Environment America President Ed Johnson said in a statement. "Air quality will only get worse as our climate warms, so we have no time to lose. It's time to clear the air."

The story is here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear stakeholder perspectives on the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

The House Natural Resources Committee will mark up a series of bills, including legislation aiming to eliminate certain Trump administration rules regarding endangered and threatened species.

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OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

Magnitude 7.7 earthquake strikes off the coast of Jamaica and is felt as far away as Miami, CNN reports

New Mexico's governor says state needs realistic, sustainable water plan, The Associated Press reports

Delaware City refinery to pay $70,000 for releasing thousands of pounds of chemicals into the air, the Delaware News Journal reports

 

ICYMI: Stories from Tuesday...

One-third of Americans experienced 100 days of poor air quality due to pollution in 2018: study

GOP senators press IRS on enforcement of electric vehicle tax credit

Democrats' draft climate bill charts path to carbon neutrality by 2050