As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Byrd, Brown Keys To Climate Fight; EPA Steps Up

Yesterday's release of the Kerry-Boxer climate bill found at least one surprising supporter - West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.

Senator Byrd put out a statement making surprisingly supportive noises, saying he’s “glad” that Kerry and Boxer incorporated his suggestions and promising to keep working on the bill with them. A Kerry aide says Byrd’s comments came after Kerry lobbied Byrd’s staff extensively in one-on-one meetings.

Now, I'd rather have the Senator from West Virginia who is physically able to perform - Jay Rockefeller criticized the bill - praising the bill, but if Byrd is reachable, that does widen the list of reachable Senators. The Hill reports that Sherrod Brown of Ohio could be a key:

The Ohio liberal has been working diligently behind the scenes on behalf of manufacturers, seeking concessions from two Democrats who share his views on most other policy matters [...]

For starters, he thinks the Senate climate change bill needs to invest significantly more to help U.S. manufacturers, which face a competitive disadvantage with companies in China and other countries with less strict environmental rules.

Brown wants Boxer to increase the size of rebates to manufacturers that consume large amounts of energy, and give more assistance to small- and midsized manufacturers trying to retool their businesses to compete in the clean-energy economy.

Perhaps most controversially, Brown wants the Senate to consider imposing tariffs on foreign competitors operating in countries with lax rules for greenhouse gas emissions.

“Carbon dioxide emissions expand if a company closes down in Toledo, Ohio, and moves to Shanghai, where the emissions standards are weaker,” he said. Brown describes this phenomenon as “carbon leakage.”

Democrats such as Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) say they have the same concerns as Brown and acknowledge that he has been a leading advocate for industrial states.

“His voice on manufacturing is really important,” said Stabenow of Brown.

I'm actually pleased that there is a voice for manufacturing in the Senate, though I don't necessarily agree with all of Brown's proposals, many of which are admittedly parochial. But I strongly support carbon adjustment tariffs. It's just a fact that greenhouse gas emissions should be factored into the price of goods, and such a tariff would be a way to do that. If Wal-Mart sells me a set of tube socks for $2, the cost to the environment and eventual cleanup is far higher.

The good news yesterday is that the Obama Administration stepped up. The EPA issued a new rule on regulating greenhouse gases emitted at stationary sources, and it could prove a motivator for Congress to get something done.

Appearing at a climate summit in Los Angeles today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson will announce the administration’s plan to regulate industrial global warming pollution, with or without the support of Congress. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed global warming standards for motor vehicles, applauded by the auto industry. Under the rules of the Clean Air Act, when these regulations go into effect in March 2010, all major greenhouse gas polluters — from coal-fired power plants and oil refiners to methane-emitting landfills — are automatically subject to regulation:

Under EPA’s current interpretation of PSD [Prevention of Significant Deterioration] and title V applicability requirements, promulgation of this motor vehicle rule will trigger the applicability of PSD and title V requirements for stationary sources that emit GHGs.

Today’s proposed rule — which allows public comment until December — technically is a “tailoring rule” to limit regulation of global warming pollution to emitters of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, instead of the automatic statutory amount of 250 tons. This 250-ton standard would cover about four million businesses and homes — the “glorious mess” President Bush used as an excuse for his inaction. The EPA plans to raise the pollution limit to 25,000 tons, so that only 14,000 industrial pollution sources nationwide would be covered by the regulations, 11,000 of which are currently covered by the Clean Air Act permitting requirements already.

Raising that pollution limit means that churches or schools, who emit over 250 tons, would not be targeted. But it does mean that thousands of power plants will get permits showing they are working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That sets a date - March 2010 - for the fight. And Congress can either provide their own counterpart legislation or get out of the way. That's helpful to Kerry and Boxer's efforts.

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