The legislation, headed for a House vote as early as tomorrow, falls far too short of what the science says is necessary to prevent serious climate change, and it gives away far too much to polluters, Greenpeace said.
Unless the bill is significantly strengthened – and the proposed amendments submitted this week give little indication of that happening on the House floor – then, Greenpeace says, the legislation isn't worth passing.
"To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history. We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak."
The Greenpeace statement (below) was issued a few hours after President Obama gave a short televised statement strongly urging House members on both sides of the aisle to pass the legislation. Obama spoke of the bill in terms of reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil, creating jobs, and seizing the opportunity to lead in the development of clean technology.
For ACES to become the strong climate bill that was initially promised, one that could restore the United States' position as a world leader in environmental protection, Obama will have to invest his political capital, Greenpeace Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett says.
The bill was already marginal when it came out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where coal-state Democrats extracted concessions for the industry. Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford took a stand then in calling for a stronger bill. Greenpeace kept working behind the scenes, but none of the group's efforts to fix the bill paid off, Muffett said.
The tipping point came this week when bill sponsor Henry Waxman bowed to the demands of farm-state Democrats, led by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and agreed to shift authority over offsets from the EPA to the Department of Agriculture.
That shift was made "with the express political purpose of making it easier for industrial agriculture to access offset credits," Muffett said. "The big problem with offsets is if they aren't stringently policed, you have a great risk of undermining the system."
On top of that, Waxman agreed to block the EPA from considering land-use changes when calculating the lifecycle emissions of biofuels, a move demanded by Peterson to protect large ethanol producers.
Another serious flaw was the change to Section 116 to allow any coal fired power plant that has received even just its initial permits to avoid regulation under this bill, "yet another concession to the coal industry," Muffett said.
"You're talking potentially 100 coal-fired power plants that are now exempted from these rules."
Then came the EPA's analysis, showing that the bill would lead to burning more coal and more than doubling nuclear generation, with marginal benefits for renewable energy and a delay in real emissions reductions.
In its statement today, Greenpeace – backed by 2.8 million members – urges Obama "to move beyond rhetoric and deliver on his commitments to 'restore science to its proper place' and to lead the world in addressing climate change," but Muffett doesn't see that happening through the ACES bill.
"The received wisdom inside the beltway is that things can only get worse in the Senate, and when you look at the array of Senate committees that have jurisdiction, and the composition of those committees, you can see why."
It may take the pressure of the rest of the world's leaders to make a difference, Muffett said. In the meantime, Greenpeace will be encouraging the EPA to finalize its greenhouse gasendangerment finding and move quickly to set regulations.
1Sky, Sierra: Strengthen This Bill
Other environmental groups urged Congress to stick with ACES and kept up the drum beat for amendments to strengthen the climate bill on the House floor.
Forty-eight House members signed a letter to Waxman and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week calling for three vital changes recommended by 1Sky, Sierra Club, Environment America and eight other groups:
Raise the renewable electricity standard to 30 percent by 2020;
Eliminate the provision that would strip the EPA's authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act;
Reduce the allocation giveaways to polluters.
Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.) submitted one of those amendments, to try to preserve the EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. If approved, it would strike Sec. 831, a single sentence in the bill that states no greenhouse gas may be added to those in Sec. 108(a) of the act on the basis of its effect on global climate change.
Meanwhile, Waxman, his Energy and Commerce Committee members, White House officials and House leaders turned up the lobbying in a bid to secure the 218 votes they'll need for the bill to pass the House and move into the Senate.
"It's close, but right now we're at the 218 mark," Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) told CQ this evening. "It was very close earlier today, but the president has been on the phone with some members. Folks are coming off the fence. Folks who have been procrastinating on this are realizing they will have to make up their minds."
Following is the statement Greenpeace released today:
Since the Waxman-Markey bill left the Energy and Commerce Committee, yet another fleet of industry lobbyists has weakened the bill even more, and further widened the gap between what Waxman-Markey does and what science demands. As a result, Greenpeace opposes this bill in its current form. We are calling upon Congress to vote against this bill unless substantial measures are taken to strengthen it.
Despite President Obama's assurance that he would enact strong, science-based legislation, we are now watching him put his full support behind a bill that chooses politics over science, elevates industry interests over national interest, and shows the significant limitations of what this Congress believes is possible.
As it comes to the floor, the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions. To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history. We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.
With many others in the environmental, faith and consumer rights communities, Greenpeace has expressed tremendous concern about the role of offsets in this legislation. Unless strictly controlled, the abuse of offsets could prevent real emission reductions for more than a decade. The decision to move authority over offsets from EPA to the Department of Agriculture further reduces the likelihood that such controls will be maintained and increases the likelihood they will undermine real reductions.
This legislation sends a strong and unmistakable signal to the world that the United States is not yet ready to show the leadership necessary to reach a strong agreement at Copenhagen in December. Already, we are seeing the impact of this signal as one country after another retreats from the aggressive targets needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
We call on the Congress to reject this bill and begin immediate and urgent work on legislation that treats seriously the dire threat of climate change. We call on President Obama to move beyond rhetoric and deliver on his commitments to "restore science to its proper place" and to lead the world in addressing climate change.
(Photo: Greenpeace/Eric Larsen)