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Congress takes aim at climate change in massive relief bill

The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade.

December 22, 2020  by Associated Press

The huge pandemic relief and spending bill includes billions of dollars to promote clean energy such as wind and solar power while sharply reducing over time the use of potent coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are considered a major driver of global warming.

The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade.

“Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“This historic agreement includes three separate pieces of legislation that will significantly reduce greenhouse gases,” Barrasso said, citing measures that promote technologies to “capture” and store carbon dioxide produced by power and manufacturing plants; reduce diesel emissions in buses and other vehicles; and authorize a 15-year reduction of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that are used in everything from cars to air conditioners. HFCs are considered a major driver of global warming and are being targeted worldwide.

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The sprawling legislation also extends tax credits for solar and wind power that are a key part of President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to generate 100 per cent “clean electricity” by 2035.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the environment panel, said the bill would cut pollution from school buses, air conditioners, refrigerators and more, while creating thousands of American jobs and helping “save our planet from the climate crisis.”

Much of the sweeping energy package — long promoted as a “down payment” on fighting climate change — was agreed to earlier this year, but the package fell apart in March over a dispute among Senate Republicans on the HFC provision.

Carper and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pushed for a measure they said would give U.S. companies the certainty needed to produce “next generation” coolants as an alternative to HFCs. Both men represent states that are home to companies that produce the alternative refrigerants.

The Kennedy-Carper amendment was supported by dozens of senators, including 17 Republican co-sponsors. But the amendment was opposed by Senate GOP leadership, including Barrasso and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

In a separate development, the bill also includes nearly $10 billion to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act to pay for flood control, environmental restoration, coastal protection, harbour improvements and other projects.


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