The Latest Climate Plan: House Dems Unveil an Outline of CLEAN Future Legislation

Photo: Francis Chung, E&E News

On Wednesday, the House Democratic leadership rolled out their answer to the Green New Deal — an outline of a proposal they call “The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act,” which adopts the science-based goal of transitioning the United States to a 100 percent clean economy – defined as producing net-zero emissions – by 2050.  The bill, which is set to be released soon, will employ “a multi-pronged strategy” that addresses “the climate crisis fully and swiftly” and will “reduce pollution and hazardous waste, rebuild and modernize infrastructure, deploy clean energy while developing the workforce to sustain it, and protect the health and safety of all communities.”

Why This Matters:  The bill is being released now to lay the groundwork in the event that Dems win the White House in 2020.  While the drafters were aiming for consensus, it appears that this proposal exposes the divide within the Democratic party between the establishment types and the progressives, with the Sunrise Movement immediately declaring it insufficient.  Republicans, not surprisingly, criticized it too.  But many environmental groups, such as the League of Conservation Voters, expressed support.  Speaker Pelosi mentioned climate change yesterday in her press conference saying we need climate-resilient infrastructure improvements, which is also progress. But will the bill boldly address the climate emergency given its scope and its urgency?  Will the establishment Dems be able to unite the party and galvanize change?  As The Washington Post said, “their work is still cut out for them.”

What’s In The CLEAN Future Act?

Here are its biggest policy proposals:

  • Energy:  It establishes a nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES), requiring all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2050, with hints of a trading system by requiring energy suppliers to possess a sufficient quantity of “clean energy credits” at the end of each year and allowing them to “buy and trade clean energy credits from one another or purchase them via auction.”
  • Buildings and Efficiency: It establishes national energy savings targets for continued improvement of model building energy codes, leading to a requirement of zero-energy-ready buildings by 2030 and provides assistance for states and Tribes to support adoption of updated model building energy codes and funds a Home Energy Savings Retrofit Rebate Program to help homeowners pay for residential energy efficiency improvements.
  • Transportation:  It directs EPA to set new, increasingly stringent greenhouse gas emission standards for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles so that they can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 plus other measures to support this shift to low- and zero-carbon transportation fuels, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure deployment and aggressive goals to transition federal fleets to alternative fuel and low- or zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Construction: It establishes a Buy Clean Program that sets performance targets to steadily reduce emissions from construction materials and products.
  • Environmental Justice: It requires environmental justice be considered when approving state plans for clean air and safe disposal of hazardous waste so as to address disproportionate exposures to legacy toxic chemicals in frontline communities.
  • Natural Gas: It directs EPA to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector – the largest source of domestic methane emissions.  And it requires the government to consider climate change as part of its public interest determination on natural gas-related decisions.
  • New Cross-Cutting Solutions:  It introduces some new ideas like requiring states to have climate plans, establishes a “first-of-its-kind National Climate Bank to help states, cities, communities, and companies in the transition to a clean economy,” and directs the Secretary of Energy to establish and implement an energy workforce development program.

To Go Deeper:  Read the summary of the bill here.

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