An early version of Senate climate legislation obtained today by E&E confirms that Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) largely plan to follow the path their Democratic colleagues pursued in the House-passed climate bill.
But the 684-page Senate draft bill diverges from the House measure in its push for a 2020 emissions target of 20 percent, compared with the House's bill's 17 percent limit.
Both the House-passed bill, H.R. 2454, and the preliminary Boxer-Kerry proposal contain the same longer-term emissions limits of 42 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and an 83 percent cut for 2050.
A senior Boxer aide cautioned that the draft bill does not reflect proposed changes that have recently been incorporated from senators both on and off the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The latest version, which the aide says stretches for more than 800 pages, is scheduled to be released tomorrow during a Capitol Hill press conference with about a dozen senators, veterans, environmentalists and industry officials.
"It's a snapshot in time of our restructure of the [House] bill, but it doesn't really reflect where the bill is now," the Boxer aide said.
Overall, the early draft of the Boxer-Kerry legislation includes four titles that take aim at greenhouse gas emissions across multiple economic sectors, as well as a "transition and adaptation" section aimed at helping the nation cope with the costs of a climate bill and the expected repercussions of global warming.
Both the early draft and the Boxer-Kerry bill due for release tomorrow will leave blank key information about how the senators intend to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in emission allowances. Following the path of Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, those figures will come next month when Boxer releases a chairman's mark of the bill before an EPW Committee markup.
To deal with economic uncertainties, the draft Boxer-Kerry plan would establish a strategic allowance reserve that allows U.S. EPA to sell credits into the carbon market via an auction in the event credit prices rise faster than expected.
The draft also mirrors the House on offset projects that allow industry an alternative compliance option to pay farmers and other landowners for environmentally friendly projects. Both the House-passed bill and this early Senate draft allow capped sources to collectively use emissions offsets to meet 2 billion tons of their obligations annually -- divided evenly between domestic and international credits, with the amount of international credits allowed to increase if insufficient domestic offsets are available.
The early draft of the Boxer-Kerry bill heeds environmentalists' requests by removing a section of the House bill that would have restricted EPA's ability to enact climate change regulations.
Like the House bill, the Boxer-Kerry draft would provide emissions allowances to fund commercial deployment of carbon capture and sequestration, although it does not provide specifics. It also establishes performance standards for emissions of greenhouse gases from new coal-fired power plants.