Carbon pricing finally gets Congress’ attention

Published November 30. 2018 7:31PM
THE DAY, New London Connecticut

By Roger J. Kuhns

An amazing event has occurred. The bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The details of the bill were presented in an evening teleconference call by Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) leaders that night, including Mark Reynolds, executive director, Danny Richter, vice president of Legislation and Research, and Madeleine Para, vice president of programs.

Over 800 CCL volunteers were on the call, including Mystic CCL chapter members Anne Schmidt, Jason Hine, myself and others. CCL has over 110,000 volunteers across America who have been working towards this moment for a decade.

This bill is the first nationwide carbon-pricing and revenue-neutral bill sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. It is bipartisan. Sponsors include U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick,R-Penn.; Francis Rooney, R-Fla.; Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; John Delaney, D-Md.; and Charlie Crist, D-Fla.

“This is a first, and is to be celebrated,” said Richter.

This bill came about through the work of the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House and ten years of CCL work. CCL’s Jay Butera was key in establishing the bipartisan caucus. Connecticut Reps. Jim Himes, John Larson and Elizabeth Esty, all Democrats, are members of the caucus. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is concerned about climate change impacts, but not a caucus member.

The bill introduction is timely in that the National Climate Assessment report released Nov. 23 itemized serious impacts to the environment, society and economy of America, requiring urgent action. These findings agree with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report. The best first step in the actions is to price carbon, and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act does that.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is (1) Effective, reducing America’s emissions by 33 percent within 10 years, and 90% by 2050; (2) Good for people, improving health and saving lives; (3) Good for the economy, creating 2.1 million new jobs over 10 years; (4) Bipartisan; (5) Revenue neutral because fees collected on CO2 emissions will be allocated to all Americans.

What’s in the Bill? A fee is set on carbon starting at $15/ton CO2 equivalent and increasing $10/ton annually. The fee is applied at point of fossil fuel extraction — the mine (for coal and tar sands), the well (for oil and natural gas), and the first port of entry (for imported fossil fuels).

The money collected from the carbon fee is allocated in equal shares every month for each adult and a half-share for each child up to two children per household. Payments will be scheduled to begin in advance of fee collection to protect low-income households. A border carbon adjustment will be applied to imported goods, and exported U.S. goods will receive a refund.

Regulatory adjustments are in the bill, preventing additional regulations on covered CO2 emissions, as long as emissions targets are being met. If emissions targets are not met after 10 years, then EPA regulatory authority over these emissions would be restored.

Regulations based on other pollutants will not be affected, nor will auto mileage CAFE standards, and other water and air quality regulations. CO2 capture and sequestration programs that are demonstrably safe and permanent will be eligible for a rebate. Fluorinated greenhouse gases will be subject to special carbon fee rates. Special provisions have been added to address agriculture. The carbon fee program will only end when certain technical and budgetary conditions are met.

Will it pass in Congress? That’s unlikely in the current lame-duck session, but the bill will be re-introduced in the new 116th Congress in 2019. We are introducing the bill now to signal a starting point to move forward in our discussion and action to address climate impacts.

What can you do? Shower the bill’s sponsors with appreciation. Write letters to the editor in support of the bill. Share CCL Facebook posts and tweets on social media. Join CCL. A CCL Mystic (southeastern Connecticut) chapter holds regular meetings on the second Saturday of every month.

Finally, urge your congressional representatives to join the Climate Solutions Caucus and be part of the continuing effort to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act into law.

For more information go to Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) website: And “Navigating the Energy Maze — The Transition to a Sustainable Future” by myself and George H. Shaw:

Roger J. Kuhns is the Connecticut state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.