January 9, 2020

Senior House Democrats Release Climate Proposal Requiring Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

Holland & Knight Alert
Beth A. Viola | Isabel C. Lane

UPDATE: Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) on Jan. 28, 2020, released draft text of this legislation along with a section-by-section summary of the bill. The committee is soliciting feedback on the initial draft with the intention of continuing to expand and refine the language over the course of the year. The committee will also continue stakeholder meetings to this end. Holland & Knight will be posting additional analysis on individual sections of the proposed legislation in upcoming weeks.

Senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Jan. 9, 2020, released a comprehensive legislative framework to combat climate change targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

The latest in the series of sweeping climate proposals announced in the 116th Congress, this framework is the first to receive support from powerful Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). Alongside other senior members of the committee, Pallone first announced the 2050 net-zero emissions target in July 2019 as a more centrist alternative to the Green New Deal. Pallone has since stated that the newly released framework serves as a complement, rather than a contradiction, to the Green New Deal.

The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's (CLEAN) Future Act unveiled this week includes sections on the power, buildings and efficiency, transportation, and industrial sectors. Among myriad components, the most significant include:

  • A Clean Electricity Standard (CES) requiring all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2050
  • A mandate for zero-energy-ready buildings by 2030
  • Directives to states and federal agencies to develop and implement individual plans to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target
  • New, stringent vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards alongside incentives to shift to low- and zero-carbon transportation fuels
  • A "Buy Clean" Program setting performance standards to reduce emissions in construction and manufacturing supported by federal funding alongside incentives for use of low-carbon materials, and
  • A National Climate Bank to finance the energy transition through loans, grants and other mechanisms, particularly for frontline, rural, low-income and communities experiencing environmental injustice

Notably, the proposal does not include carbon pricing, which the framework's proponents assert is unnecessary for reaching the 2050 target and out of the Energy and Commerce Committee's jurisdiction.

The framework was announced on Jan. 8, 2020, without Republican support. Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) immediately repudiated the proposal, deeming it a "partisan messaging exercise" and "missed opportunity." Contradicting this narrative, Pallone stated at the framework's unveiling, "this is not a messaging bill. We're going to try to move this bill."

Draft legislative text is expected by the end of the month. As more details become clear, Holland & Knight will provide analysis on notable sections of the proposal which, if enacted, would impact nearly every business, government and tribe in the United States.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.

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