US Senate panel adds natgas to emissions bill

01 November 2007 19:00  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A US Senate subcommittee approved a wide-ranging climate control bill on Thursday that adds the natural gas industry to major production sectors that would have to make significant emissions reductions by 2020.


The Senate subcommittee on global warming approved by a vote of 4-3 an amended Lieberman-Warner cap and trade bill, S-2191, the America’s Climate Security Act, and sent it on to the full Senate Environment Committee where it is likely to be voted on later this month.


Sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Connecticut) and John Warner (Republican-Virginia) the bill would impose limits or caps on US industrial emissions of six greenhouse gases (GHG) and auction emissions permits to companies in major US industrial sectors.


Those companies whose plants emit less greenhouse gases than permitted could sell remaining emission credits to other firms whose facilities exceed allotted maximums.


The bill has been widely criticized by US chemicals producers and other manufacturers who charge that if enacted it would drive energy prices higher and force production and economic cutbacks.


The original bill imposed emissions caps on three main economic sectors, manufacturing, transportation (automotive and refining) and electric power generation.


But an amendment put forward by Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) adds a fourth regulated sector, natural gas production.


All four industry sectors would be required to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels - or 15% below the sectors’ 2005 emissions - by 2020 and then to 65% below the 1990 level by 2050.


Lautenberg also added an amendment, approved by the subcommittee in today’s vote, that provides a “look back” provision. 


Under that provision, if after the bill becomes law climate scientists determine global warming is accelerating faster than they thought, emissions targets specified in the law could be increased as much as climate scientists believe warranted.


Those two amendments to the bill are likely to increase opposition by the US chemicals and refining industries.  US chemicals production is heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and as an energy source.


Although industry officials were not immediately prepared to comment on the amended S-2191 cap and trade bill, Bill Holbrook of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said: “Climate change legislation in any shape or form should help increase natural gas supply, not decrease it.”


US environmentalists welcomed today’s subcommittee vote.  Elizabeth Thompson, legislative director at the Environmental Defense Fund, said: “With this bill we have a real chance of enacting a mandatory cap on emissions in this Congress.”


Capitol Hill analysts said the bill as drafted has little chance of winning the necessary 67 votes in the full 100-seat Senate and that President George Bush has already indicated he would veto any mandatory, economy-wide emissions cap system.

By: Joe Kamalick
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