Climate News from Capitol Hill

There are small but hopeful signs of progress in overcoming legislative gridlock.

Over a decade ago, the Waxman-Markey carbon trading bill died in the Senate. President Obama then had to rely entirely on administrative actions to address climate change. Republicans united in a solid wall of violent opposition to climate action.  There are some hopeful signs that things may not be quite so tough for President Biden. Here’s a rundown of what’s happened in the past couple of weeks.

  1. Methane emissions. The House voted to overturn a Trump rule deregulating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The resolution overturning Trump’s rollback passed the Senate with support from three Republicans, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and Rob Portman. In the House, every Democrat  and twelve Republicans voted to overturn the rollback.
  2. Infrastructure proposal. Biden agreed on an infrastructure package with a bipartisan group of Senators.  The infrastructure offers less than Biden wanted in climate-related funding, but the amount was still significant. The package includes $73 billion to expand and modernize electricity transmission, which is key to expanding renewable energy production. It also includes $7.5 billion for electric buses and transit and another $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations.  Moving the proposal through Congress will be tricky, but at least this is a start.
  3. Sustainable agriculture. By an overwhelming margin, the Senate passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The bill is designed to make it easier for farmers and timber companies to sell carbon credits in emission trading markets such as California and Washington State. USDA will identify ways in which farms and timber companies can reduce their carbon emissions or sequester carbon. USDA will also create a third-party certification system to validate carbon credits. The bill to encourage participation by these rural interests in carbon reduction could shift the political balance in favor of climate action.
  4. Republican Climate Caucus. About a quarter of House Republicans joined a new Conservative Climate Caucus, including the ranking members of the House Natural Resources, Energy and Commerce, and Select Climate Crisis committees. It’s not clear whether they’re actually prepared to support significant climate measures. But at the very least, this represents a big break with the climate denialism that has dominated the Republican Party.  This may not represent a change of heart so much as a recognition that the party can’t remain competitive in suburbs and swing states with unremitting opposition to climate action.

This cluster of actions is more notable when you consider that they all came in a single week.  I do realize that these actions are modest when compared with the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. But in what has been a hyper-partisan deadlock over climate action, any signs of a thaw are welcome.





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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “Climate News from Capitol Hill”

  1. Dan, you sure got it right again with “Facing Up to Reality,” especially now that the Pacific Northwest just went into overdrive after you posted that warning.

    If you and your colleagues can’t inform, educate and motivate the public to act with the greatest sense of urgency, as you said: “If we don’t cut emissions quickly and dramatically, climate change will accelerate, putting droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires into overdrive,” then the human race is in extremis because we totally failed to learn how to communicate with in time.

    Let’s not let this be our epitaph for the UFOs to write home about.

  2. Greetings Zetans, this is our final trip report about our observations of the blue planet, which has turned into a desert because the inhabitants of this planet have destroyed everything that produced life.

    They are now extinct over a very short period of time since they discovered sciences that they could not control due the failure of their brain to evolve fast enough to maintain control over many of their scientific discoveries.

    Sadly, they had geniuses like Beethoven and Linus Pauling who should have been able to make a difference if their leaders had educated the inhabitants to do the right things so everyone could share the enjoyment of discoveries like theirs.

    It is most sad that they produced a lot of information that told them how to overcome the greed and hate that overwhelmed far too many of them, especially political and intellectual leaders who couldn’t even figure out how to inform, educate and motivate the public to follow their own Golden Rule that could have saved them.

    Our exploration has ended far sooner than we planned, but we’ll keep looking for better lifeforms while on our return trip.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more