Congressional Climate Bill Includes ‘Complete Streets’ But Not CLEAN TEA

Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has just struck a deal on his long-awaited climate change bill — and though the agreement makes a number of concessions to polluters, it also takes a step forward towards popularizing the cause of "complete streets".

waxman.jpgHouse Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). Photo: pbs.org.

The House climate bill requires every state and metropolitan area with more than 200,000 residents to devise plans for reducing transportation-related carbon emissions. The bill directs states and localities to draft plans that "consider transportation and land use strategies" that encourage transit use, walking and bike riding, as well as equal access by all users.

In short, the House climate bill officially sets "complete streets" principles as planning goals for state and local transportation officials. The DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would enforce the deadlines for each state and local transportation emissions-reduction plan and hand out grants to help areas implement innovative strategies for diminishing auto dependence.

The funding for those grants would have to come from future spending bills, not from the auctions of carbon-emissions permits to polluting industries — the so-called CLEAN TEA plan that Transportation for America and other advocacy groups have been hoping for.

Today’s deal would auction only 15 percent of the emissions permits, giving the rest away free to coal companies, electric utilities and the auto industry. Why did CLEAN TEA fall by the wayside? Sadly, Democrats from coal- and oil-dominant states were prepared to bring down Waxman’s bill unless their hometown industries got emissions permits for free. Even those Democrats who are still fighting to make polluting industries pay for their permits want the revenue to go back to the public in the form of tax credits, rather than to green transportation.

As Waxman’s climate bill takes flak from environmentalists who (rightly) lament its giveaways to industry, should the very presence of "complete streets" language in the bill be considered a minor victory? Or is the climate deal just another example of Congress kowtowing to Big Carbon?

  • “should the very presence of ‘complete streets’ language in the bill be considered a minor victory?”

    It should be considered step one. Brief round of applause. Now what’s step two?

  • Brief round of applause.

    Yay Tom Harkin!

  • mich rolling

    Congratulations on getting this far.

    Getting ANY Emissions Trading Scheme with a sunset clause on free emissions permits up is pretty much a death warrant for coal. Who will build a coal fired power plant on the promise of having a CO2 scrubbing technology working by the time (15 years, really?) that 100% of permits have to be bought.

    Getting a legal framework in place by which non-car transport options can sue for adequate provision will be a great start.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Stim Bill About to Enter Final Negotiations

|
Negotiators from the House and Senate are set to begin talks finalizing the stimulus bill at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, Reuters reports. While a topline figure of $789 billion has apparently been agreed to in principle, the devil is in the details, and there’s still time to speak up for investment in green transportation and […]

Senate Poised to Move on Climate Bill

|
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate environment committee, isn’t yet ready to start debating a long-term transportation bill — but she is reportedly prepared to move on climate change legislation that includes targets for diminishing auto dependence and encouraging transit use. Boxer’s panel will begin debate on its climate bill during the last week […]

Oberstar’s New Transportation Bill: Get The Highlights

|
Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), the House transportation committee chairman is set to brief reporters this afternoon on his $450 billion, six-year federal transportation bill — which he plans to pursue regardless of the Obama administration’s push for an 18-month extension of existing law. House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) has a brewing battle with […]

White House Staying Quiet For Now on Transit’s Role in Climate Bill

|
Delivering his climate-change message to Congress yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned that fuel-efficiency advances secured by the Obama administration would not be enough to reduce emissions from transportation — not without encouraging Americans to drive less. Transportation Secretary LaHood said today he’ll weigh in later on climate-change money for transit. (Photo: HillBuzz) But when […]