Thu, Apr 02, 2009 - Page 7 News List

House Democrats unveil plan to cut greenhouse gases


Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a plan to tackle climate change by cutting greenhouse gases by one-fifth over the next decade, a faster clip than urged by US President Barack Obama.

The proposal, seen as the first step toward Congress enacting climate legislation this year, was designed to attract broader support among centrist Democrats.

The plan includes measures to spur energy efficiency and to support technology to capture carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, from coal burning power plants.

The 600-page “discussion draft” will be the basis for climate debates in the coming weeks as the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives works to write a bill by the middle of next month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, called the draft “a strong starting point” and has told colleagues that she would like to get a climate bill passed before Congress departs for its summer recess in August.

The Senate, where climate legislation was defeated last year by strong Republican opposition, has made it clear that this time it wants the House to act first.

The measure offered Tuesday by Democratic representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey calls for reducing greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century.

Environmentalists embraced the proposal and said it includes the kind of flexibility designed to attract enough Democrats — those from coal-producing or heavy industry states, for example — to get it passed.

But getting the measure through the Energy and Commerce Committee, which Waxman chairs, will require compromises.

The draft leaves for further negotiations one of the most contentious issues: It does not say how pollution allowances would be distributed or whether they will be sold by auction or given away to polluting industries.

Separately, the Senate accepted the idea on Tuesday that emission allowances under a cap-and-trade program should be auctioned and not given out for free.

However, Congress must first enact a cap-and-trade program.

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