Twenty environmental groups including the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council and Audubon Society sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today urging her to strengthen the renewable electricity standard in the climate bill and ensure that the EPA keeps its authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.
"Our top priority is to enact legislation that jump-starts a clean energy economy, creates millions of clean energy jobs and reduces global warming pollution while giving the U.S. credibility to lead international negotiations on climate change," the groups write.
"By strengthening and passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the House of Representatives can take a critical step towards accomplishing that goal."
The renewable electricity standard (RES) in the ACES bill currently calls for utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, however it allows them to fudge that number by counting in 8 percent from energy efficiency gains.
The RES started out stronger. The ACES bill that Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced on March 31 would have required utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. During a week of hearings, however, some southern lawmakers argued that their states wouldn't be able to meet that threshold. To get the bill through the Energy and Commerce Committee, the RES was watered down with enough exemptions to effectively zero out the gains in some parts of the country.
The letter calls on Pelosi to restore the RES to 20 percent by 2020, with the potential to count 3 percent from energy efficiency by 2020. It also calls for an increase in the energy efficiency requirement so utilities achieve 10 percent energy efficiency by 2020.
"Strengthening these standards will generate hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs," the groups write.
The letter also urges Pelosi to work to increase the portion of pollution allowance value under the proposed cap-and-trade plan that would be dedicated to delivering energy efficiency and renewable energy, creating green jobs and training workers to fill them.
And it calls on the House Speaker to preserve the EPA's authority to regulate power plants' carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. Waxman and Markey had eliminated that EPA's authority to regulate CO2 emissions in their original version, based on a compromise proposed by the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental groups.
Even with its flaws, the American Clean Energy Security Act is still the strongest framework the country has had so far to create a transformative energy policy, said Ross Macfarlane of Climate Solutions, one of the groups that signed the letter to Pelosi.
"We need to be working to improve this, but we also need to be starting immediately to turn this oil supertanker of a global economy around," Macfarlane said.
Other groups, most notably Greenpeace, have said they can't support the legislation without major changes because the bill is too weak to meet the emissions cuts scientists say are necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.
The letter reads as follows:
June 8, 2009
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Madame Speaker,
The American Clean Energy and Security Act offers our country the most important opportunity in generations to jumpstart our economy, create millions of new, well-paying jobs and set the stage for America to compete and win in a 21st century economy while reducing global warming pollution. We are eager to work with you to deliver on the promise of a clean energy economy by improving and passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), while rejecting any weakening of the bill.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act sets up a framework for transitioning to clean energy and curbing global warming. It sets a first-ever limit on pollution that causes global warming and contains important and effective standards to increase energy efficiency.
The bill aims to reduce U.S. global warming emissions from capped sources by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050. In addition, the bill commits the United States to achieving additional emission reductions through agreements to prevent deforestation. The bill will establish strong minimum targets for commercial and residential building codes, which will save consumers $25 billion a year by 2030. And the bill will provide money to state and local governments to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Our organizations stand ready to work with you and Chairmen Waxman and Markey to strengthen and pass this bill to fulfill the promise of this historic opportunity. But in order to realize this opportunity, Congress will need to stand strong against the special interests that seek to weaken the bill at every turn.
In order to maximize job creation, invest in the skills of our workers, promote long-term economic prosperity, and ensure definite reductions in global warming pollution, we will work to strengthen the bill to:
Ensure More Clean Energy for America
Strengthen renewable electricity provisions to achieve 20 percent of sales generated from clean renewable energy by 2020, including the flexibility to achieve another 3 percent that could come from either efficiency or renewables by 2020. Increase the energy efficiency requirement so that utilities achieve 10% energy efficiency by 2020. Strengthening these standards will generate hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs.
Clean Up the Most Polluting Sources
Preserve EPA's ability under the Clean Air Act to require existing power plants, refineries and other sources to meet up-to-date carbon pollution standards.
Create more Clean Energy Jobs for America and Build Resiliency to Climate Change
Increase the portion of pollution allowance value dedicated to delivering energy efficiency and renewable energy, creating green jobs and training workers to fill them, and protecting natural resources, public health and vulnerable communities here and around the world.
Unfortunately, some members of Congress and special interests have said they would like to roll back the already weakened target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
We urge you to reject any effort to weaken these targets. We also urge you to preserve the provision ensuring that the latest science informs the policy and strengthen the policy response to that science.
Our top priority is to enact legislation that jump-starts a clean energy economy, creates millions of clean energy jobs and reduces global warming pollution while giving the U.S. credibility to lead international negotiations on climate change. By strengthening and passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the House of Representatives can take a critical step towards accomplishing that goal. Our members, partners and allies are mobilizing as never before to capture this historic opportunity.
Clean Water Action
Defenders of Wildlife
International Forum on Globalization
League of Conservation Voters
League of Women Voters
National Audubon Society
National Parks Conservation Association
National Resources Defense Council
National Wildlife Federation
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Union of Concerned Scientists
World Wildlife Fund
UPDATE (June 9): Another group of environmental organizations including Greenpeace sent a letter today to Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, urging him strip away the climate bill's free pollution allowances and shift to a 100 percent auction, as President Obama initially recommended. The group also urged Rangel to base the emissions targets on "the best available science," and it criticized the bill's inclusion of offsets, writing: "We believe that offsets are not a measurable or verifiable method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and that they violate the 'polluter pays' principle by providing polluters with profitable means to continue to pollute."