How Did the Senate’s 2008 Climate Bill Treat Transportation?

As I hunted for the language in the House climate change bill that set aside emissions allowances for  transportation projects, I wondered how the Senate treated the issue in its climate bill last year.

In fact, that Senate bill, which fell 12 votes short of beating a filibuster in the first week of June 2008, came somewhat closer than this year’s House bill to meeting the goals set by Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-OR) "CLEAN TEA" bill.

Sen_Barbara_Boxer_D_CA_1.jpgHow did transit fare in last year’s Senate climate bill, sponsored by environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA)?(Photo:

The Blumenauer proposal would dedicate 10 percent of the revenue from any cap-and-trade emissions program to green transportation. The final version of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) 2008 climate bill would have given transit a guaranteed share of the proceeds from auctioning pollution permits (starting at just 1 percent, then rising gradually to 2.75 percent).

By contrast, this month’s House climate bill gives transit a maximum of 10 percent of state-level emissions allowances — which themselves represent 10 percent of the total allowances.

Dave Roberts at Grist has argued cogently that auctioning emissions allowances isn’t necessarily preferable to distributing them. But that dedicated revenue stream for transit in last year’s Senate bill would have spared new rail and bus projects from having to compete for attention on the state level with other energy efficiency programs, such as building retro-fits or electricity price rebates.

What’s more, Boxer’s 2008 Senate climate bill also gave transportation a share of state-level emissions allowances. Her measure would have given 5 percent to the states, half of what this year’s House bill does, but it also required that states "retire or use all emissions allowances allocated" on one or more of these goals:

(A) To mitigate impacts on low-income energy consumers.

(B) To promote energy efficiency (including support
of electricity and natural gas demand reduction, waste minimization,
and recycling programs)

(C) To promote investment in nonemitting
electricity generation technology, including planning for the siting of
facilities employing that technology in States (including territorial
waters of States).

(D) To improve public transportation and passenger rail service and otherwise promote reductions in vehicle miles traveled.

(E) To encourage advances in energy technology that reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions.

(F) To address local or regional impacts of climate
change, including by accommodating, protecting, or relocating affected
communities and public infrastructure.

(G) To collect, evaluate, disseminate, and use
information necessary for affected coastal communities to adapt to
climate change (such as information derived from inundation prediction

(H) To mitigate obstacles to investment by new
entrants in electricity generation markets and energy-intensive
manufacturing sectors.

(I) To address local or regional impacts of climate change policy, including providing assistance to displaced workers.

(J) To mitigate impacts on energy-intensive industries in internationally competitive markets.

(K) To reduce hazardous fuels, and to prevent and suppress wildland fire.

(L) To fund rural, municipal, and agricultural water projects that are consistent with the sustainable use of water resources.

(M) To fund any other purpose the States determine to be necessary to mitigate any negative economic impacts as a result of —
(i) global warming; or (ii) new regulatory requirements as a result of this Act.


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Nobody wants this.

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A coalition of mayors wants Congress to declare a "Marshall Plan" against climate change by spending on mass transit to curb air pollution in their cities. The mayors of Atlanta, Honolulu, St. Paul, Pittsburgh, and Portland, Ore., implored senators at a climate hearing on Capitol Hill last week to invest in renewable-energy programs in order to create jobs and fund bus and rail systems, with the goal of weening people off gas-polluting vehicles.