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E2's Sixth Advocacy Trip to Washington, DC
E2’s sixth annual trip to DC took place May 12 – 14, with a group of 18 E2 members from seven states and a wide variety of professional backgrounds. Thanks to our repeated visits and outreach efforts over time, E2 has become a fairly well-known brand in Washington, and this year we gained a remarkable level of access to key decision-makers on our issues.
Our objectives this year were to:
Over the course of two days our three teams met with 54 legislators and their staffs:
THE LIEBERMAN-WARNER CLIMATE SECURITY ACT
On November 1, 2007, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S.2191) passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer. (E2 members supported the bill in a letter to the Senate on April 25, 2008.) This is a landmark piece of legislation that will create an urgently needed roadmap for America’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The bill, which creates a national, long-term declining carbon cap requiring reductions in global warming emissions of 62-66 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, is now scheduled for debate in the Senate on June 2, so the timing of our visit was particularly useful. The issues of global warming and alternative energy were a much higher priority for legislators this year than at any time in the past.
Our delegation met with legislators from states with different industry bases and thus disparate views on carbon policy. As evidence of significant movement on this issue, we found that previously polarized stakeholders are now coming together to seek common ground. E2’s most important role this year may have been to articulate those common interests by promoting the opportunities for economic growth and job generation in every state that will result from moving our economy toward a low-carbon future.
Coal States and the Rust Belt
We had particularly productive conversations with legislators from states that have historically been opposed to carbon regulation, specifically those heavy on coal-fired power generation, as well as “rust belt” states with economies dependent on heavy industry, including the automobile industry.
Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, a state that supplies coal-based electricity to nine states, engaged with E2 delegates in a wide-ranging conversation about the opportunities for his state in growing the biofuels and wind energy industries, both of which would be enhanced by the Lieberman-Warner bill. He also made it clear that he could only support a global warming bill that includes provisions for the continued use of coal, in particular significant support for technologies that allow coal-fired power plants to capture and sequester their carbon emissions. Senator Conrad is Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and therefore a key player in the future of the Lieberman-Warner bill.
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio talked about the decline of the manufacturing base in his state and his concern that higher energy prices will cause more business failures and loss of jobs. In talking with him and other manufacturing state representatives, such as Representatives Upton and Rogers of Michigan, E2 delegates stressed the enormous job creation potential for skilled manufacturing workers in alternative energy industries such as solar and wind.
While there are several major alternative energy companies that have located plants in both Ohio and Michigan in order to take advantage of the skilled workforce originally created by the auto industry, it was important to these legislators to learn that most clean energy manufacturing plants and associated jobs have been locating overseas in countries with more aggressive policies and incentives to attract them. The irony in this situation is that the U.S. is increasingly becoming an importer of technologies which originated in the U.S.
Where the Legislation Stands
On May 21, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) officially added global warming legislation to the floor calendar, paving the way for the Senate debate on the revised Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Substitute to the Climate Security Act (see summary of revised bill) in early June. At a press conference on May 21, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said “I believe...we are over 50 votes for this proposal. We are in reach of 60, but we are not there and we are not minimizing the difficulty of getting there.” Even if the bill does not pass the Senate in June, the collaborative process leading up to this vote will speed progress on a future piece of legislation next year.
On the House side, the Energy and Commerce Committee which holds jurisdiction over climate legislation and is chaired by Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), has been producing white papers but no bill. Congressman Rick Boucher (D–VA) is chair of the subcommittee responsible for a global warming bill. In meeting with him, he mentioned the lack of bi-partisan agreement on a bill and speculated that Congress and the EPA will race to develop regulations in the next Congress.
However, in late breaking news on May 28, Congressman Edward Markey, (D-MA), Chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, announced a new global warming bill, the Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act (read a summary of the bill), based on the testimony his committee has gathered over the last 17 months in more than 40 hearings with a wide range of stakeholders including E2. Congressman Markey’s bill, which he’ll introduce on Tuesday, June 2, will promote meaningful debate in the House on global warming legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated global warming policy was her highest priority.
A RENEWABLE ENERGY TAX INCENTIVE PACKAGE
In December, Congress passed the Energy and Security Independence Act of 2007, which we celebrated as a landmark energy bill for a number of reasons, including the first increase in fuel efficiency standards for cars in 32 years. However, the bill omitted a highly strategic provision for the extension of investment and production tax credits for renewable energy development, due to the inability of the House and Senate to agree on how to pay for these incentives. House leaders promised to try to pass these provisions in a separate bill, and as stated in our letter signed by 333 E2 members, we vowed at the time the energy bill passed to fight on for a renewable energy tax package.
In our meetings on the Hill, E2 delegates strongly advocated for the extension of these tax provisions as necessary not only for industry expansion, but also to prevent a contraction in the renewable energy industries and the accompanying loss of jobs. It was very rare to find any legislator in either the House or Senate who did not support an extension of the tax credits, which not only provide critical incentives to the solar and wind industries but also for energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. However, the stalemate regarding how these provisions should be funded was vividly described for us by a number of legislators who railed against their counterparts in the other chamber for failure to submit a plan that all could agree to.
On our last day in DC, Speaker Pelosi informed us that she was committed to sending a new version of the tax package to the Senate before the Memorial Day break. True to her word, H.R. 6049, the “Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act,” passed in the House on May 23 by a vote of 263 to 160 (see summary for details of the bill and its funding). The Senate is expected to vote on a similar bill in June. The House and Senate will then need to reach agreement on legislation extending the clean energy tax incentives.
LOW-CARBON FUEL STANDARDA bill is more likely to pass in Congress if it contains tangible benefits for the largest possible number of states. A low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) not only provides an excellent system for measuring and reducing carbon emissions from transportation fuels, but also encourages states to develop fuels from crops and plant material specific to their region – while generating revenue and jobs in those states and contributing to America’s energy independence.
The Lieberman-Warner bill contains a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, introduced as an amendment by Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN), which promotes the development and deployment of fuels with the lowest carbon emissions associated with their creation and use. The LCFS requires the carbon intensity of transportation fuels to decline over time, creating a market for low-carbon alternatives to traditional fuels. The carbon intensity of a fuel is measured from the production phase through end use, including emissions from farming practices, processing and transport. (For example, ethanol produced from prairie or switch grass, crops that require very low fertilizer and pesticide use and can be produced with tillage practices that emit less carbon from the soil, scores higher as a low-carbon fuel additive than corn ethanol, which has a life-cycle carbon profile similar to traditional fossil fuels.) Opportunities for states abound as feedstocks for low-carbon fuels vary from guayule shrubs that grow in the desert of Arizona to woody biomass from the Southeastern states and municipal waste from every city in the nation.
In our meetings on the Hill E2 supported the inclusion of a LCFS in the Senate bill and also encouraged House members to include similar policy in the bill they’ll write in the coming months. The LCFS originated from efforts in California. E2 and NRDC sponsored A.B. 1007 in 2005, which requires the state to develop a plan for alternative fuels and a way to measure their lifecycle greenhouse gas emission. That work eventually resulted in the Governor proposing, and the Air Resources Board adopting, the LCFS in June 2007 as part of AB 32 “early action” measures.
CONCLUSIONIn this, our sixth year of federal advocacy work, the E2 delegation heard from legislators over and over again that we are serving a unique and strategic purpose in Washington, DC, articulating the economic benefits of good environmental policy. There is no other organization with the high-caliber business expertise that our members bring to these meetings that is dedicated to promoting environmental policy for the good of the broader American economy. Unlike the professional lobbyists that are ubiquitous in the halls of Congress, E2 members volunteer their time and pay their own expenses to participate in our advocacy efforts. We’re very grateful to the 2008 delegation: Chris Arndt, Andrew Currie, John Cusack, Rick DeGolia, Dave Edwards, Bob Epstein, Berl Hartman, Chris Kaneb, Nicole Lederer, Pamela Lesh, David Miller, Wendy Neu, David Noble, Joel Serface, Jon Slangerup, Lee Stein, Bill Unger and Paul Zorner.