As the dust settles on the nation's first serious effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, here's a look at some of the reactions to the House carbon cap-and-trade bill (a.k.a. the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the Waxman-Markey bill, or H.R. 2454).
Environmental groups -- and their allies in industry -- were almost unanimous in their support of the legislation, but many noted limitations. Two groups opposed it and criticized it heavily, as did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Every interest group pledged to make their opinions known to the Senate, which is expected to debate similar legislation -- but not for several months.
The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of environmental and industry groups that support clean energy investments and a national cap on carbon emissions, called the bill a "giant leap forward to establish energy security, reduce harmful carbon emissions, and create millions of green jobs that will put our citizens back to work and get our economy back on track." Chairman Phil Angelides said, "In particular, the bills inclusion of investments to help U.S. manufacturers retool plants and retrain workers to produce the systems and components of the clean energy economy is a major victory that will keep millions of new, green jobs here at home and help revive Americas long suffering manufacturing sector."
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, echoed many in calling the bill's passage historic: "This bill sets the stage for the dawn of the clean energy future. While imperfect, it sets forth a set of goals America must achieve -- and exceed. Its most important achievement is setting the United States on a path to reduce carbon emissions some 80% by 2050. It also makes strides in halting international deforestation, requires new buildings to dramatically slash energy waste, will speed the development of made-in-America electric vehicles, and provides important protections for workers, consumers, and others who may be affected by our transition to a clean energy future." He said, however, that the Sierra Club will lobby to make the final bill include "a mechanism for cleaning up the oldest and dirtiest coal plants," more energy efficiency spending and more subsidization of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists said the bill makes our future look "more like the Jetsons and less like the Flintstones." He stressed how the bill's passage will be important to President Obama, as he negotiates with world leaders at the G8 summit in Italy this week, and with the United Nations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen in December.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, chief executive officer of Green for All, a group advocating green jobs that support poor and minority communities, praised the inclusion of an $860 million Green Jobs Act and a green construction careers-demonstration program.
The Alliance for Climate Protection, via its Repower America campaign, called the bill a "landmark."
WWF said the bill's passage offered hope that an international "deadlock" on climate negotiations may be close to breaking. Still, WWF criticized the carbon-reduction targets set by the bill.
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (and the 2009 Heart of Green Lifetime Achievement Award Winner), called the passage a "dramatic breakthrough for America's future," despite compromises that weaken it: "This bill will help create new jobs in manufacturing and clean technology. It will increase energy efficiency, help consumers save on energy bills, and protect lower-income families. And it will finally put our country on a course to limit the carbon pollution that causes global warming," she said. "But the work is far from over. Now, the bill will move to the Senate where it needs to be strengthened, so we can reach the full potential of our clean energy future and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We can achieve this by strengthening the targets for carbon pollution. We also need to safeguard our national forests and sensitive ecosystems; fully account for the carbon emission from bioenergy production; and ensure that farming and forestry projects get credit only for carbon pollution reductions that would not happen anyway. And we need to make sure that as we establish limits on global warming pollution, we build on the tools of the Clean Air Act, not replace them."
Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, called the bill the most important piece of environmental legislation in 30 years. "Like many, I would like to see deeper cuts," he said. "But what is most important is to start changing the trajectory of the greenhouse gas-generating juggernaut that is the U.S. economy. And the alternative is not a stronger bill, it is no bill."
Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp called the bill the most important piece of environmental legislation ever passed in the United States: "The American Clean Energy and Security Act puts the U.S. on the path to significant emissions reductions, a stronger economy, and a new position of leadership in the global effort to protect the climate."
Bill Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society, echoed that, saying hyperbole: "When the history of the 21st century is written, historians will mark 2009 as the beginning of an energy revolution that allowed America to transition from an economy based on polluting sources to a powerful economic engine fueled by clean sources." He also noted the reality of global warming, however: "The clean energy future embodied in this legislation will take time to realize. We know that even if all global warming emissions were to cease tomorrow, continued warming and climate disruption are unavoidable. That is why The Wilderness Society is particularly concerned that we safeguard our natural resources while continuing to cap emissions. The Waxman-Markey bill includes an important new program to preserve the health of our watersheds and wildlife sanctuaries, and provides initial funding. But the size and scope of the challenge means that we need to increase that funding as the bill moves forward, and we look forward to achieving that goal. In addition, as we promote the development of renewable energy sources and the transmission lines that come with it, The Wilderness Society will continue to insist on the need to protect our most sensitive public lands."
Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy called it a "watershed event for conservation and the world's continued and growing engagement on climate change." Particularly, he praised the provision to preserve forests and other wilderness areas that sequester carbon.
Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group's U.S. Global Warming Campaign, called it "the landmark energy and environmental legislative achievement of a generation," and noted that the public seems to be highly supportive: "Our new polling clearly demonstrates that Americans of all political stripes and from all regions of the country unmistakably support action on global warming. They believe that addressing global warming will mean more jobs, less pollution and a healthier economy that is more reliant upon sustainable forms of energy. A supermajority, 78%, want the U.S. to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide that cause global warming. By a ratio of 4-to-1, voters support the core principles of the energy plan being considered by the U.S. Congress; 72% favor the two-part plan to reduce emissions and require use of clean energy sources. Overall, two thirds, 65%, believe efforts to reduce global warming will either help create new jobs or have no effect on jobs."
William Kovacs, senior vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a foe of many environmental protection initiatives, including this one, said the bill would harm business: "The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a 1,200-page behemoth consisting of a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, a federal renewable electricity mandate, and a suite of new mandatory energy efficiency standards, will impose 397 new federal regulations (which require traditional federal agency rulemakings) and 1060 new mandates on an American public already overwhelmed by extensive federal regulation."
Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder said the bill had been "neutered" by big oil, dirty coal, corporate agribusiness and Wall Street lobbyists: "This bill will produce nowhere near the emissions reductions that are needed to solve global warming, and astonishingly it will eliminate existing EPA authority to fight pollution from coal-fired power plants. It will not put us on the path to a clean energy future, but it will lock us into a system that rewards polluters with massive giveaways and can be gamed by Wall Street; it is therefore likely to empower entrenched interests that stand in the way of progress."
Carroll Muffett, the USA Deputy Campaigns Director for Greenpeace, called the bill's passage a "victory for coal industry lobbyists, oil industry lobbyists, agriculture industry lobbyists, steel and cement industry lobbyists, among many others. But it is a tremendous loss for the American people and for the world in our common fight to avert climate catastrophe. To avoid the worst effects of global warming, we must reduce emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and the short-term target of this bill is a paltry 4%. The massive offsets in this bill means that we can continue at our current emissions level for years, and huge giveaways mean a new generation of nuclear and coal plants."
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