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Senate climate legislation unveiled

September 30, 2009
The U.S. Senate will unveil it's official version of climate change legislation today, but an unofficial debut of the bill has already caused a stir.

Green groups, of course, praised the preliminary draft that was leaked Tuesday. The bill by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass., toughens emissions cuts for 2020, hiking them to 20 percent below 2005 levels.

The draft would also give the EPA more power to set greenhouse gas emissions regulations.

From the New York Times:

The preliminary draft of the Senate climate bill gives EPA a wider berth to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, even in the event that a federal cap-and-trade plan takes effect.

The House-passed climate bill sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) put firm boundaries on EPA's authority, pre-empting the agency from regulating greenhouse gases under many existing sections of the Clean Air Act, an action that for the most part environmentalists and industry agreed was necessary to avoid triggering unnecessarily burdensome requirements.

The preliminary Senate version removes these restrictions on EPA. "The difference with this version is that there really is no affirmative pre-emption," said Roger Martella, EPA's general counsel under the George W. Bush administration and currently a partner at Sidley Austin.

Environmentalists claimed the change as a major victory, specifically because the bill would allow EPA to set emissions standards when issuing permits for existing power plants under the agency's New Source Review program.

Without the change to the draft legislation, "we believe that this would have allowed us to fall into the same trap that the Clean Air Act has fallen into in the past -- assuming that utilities won't build out existing plants," said David Hamilton, the Sierra Club's director of global warming and energy programs.

And like the Waxman-Markey bill, the Senate draft allows EPA to set greenhouse gas emissions performance standards for new coal-fired power plants, as well as major emissions sources that do not fall under a national carbon cap.
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