Regulating Greenhouse Gases


Date: June 11, 2010

Our country must develop reasonable policies to spur the creation of "green energy" jobs, lessen our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We face an international race to lead the world in alternative energy technologies, and we can win that race if Congress enacts legislation to put a price on carbon and thus encourage investment here in the United States. Maine is well positioned to become a leader in alternative energy through the development of offshore wind power.

I have, however, serious concerns about unelected government officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) taking on this complicated issue instead of Congress. I recently supported a resolution in the Senate that would have disapproved of a rule, submitted by EPA, to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act because I believe it is Congress that should establish the framework for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

I am especially concerned with the EPA's early rules on this topic. They could affect 34 businesses in Maine that employ nearly 8,800 people. Incredibly, the EPA proposes to ignore the carbon neutrality of biomass and place onerous permitting requirements on businesses such as Maine's biomass plants and paper mills, which use biomass to provide energy for their operations. This reverses years of EPA considering biomass carbon-neutral. EPA's decisions could well result in a loss of jobs, leading to mill and plant closings and discouraging employers from investing. We simply can't afford this result, particularly in this tough economic climate. The EPA's stunning reversal in its view of biomass potentially would affect 14 biomass plants in Maine alone in small rural towns such as Ashland, Fort Fairfield, and Livermore Falls.

A better way forward is for Congress to finally tackle this issue and pass comprehensive clean energy legislation. In December, I introduced the bipartisan Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal (CLEAR) Act with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Our legislation would set up a mechanism for selling "carbon shares" to the few thousand fossil fuel producers and importers through monthly auctions. Under our legislation, 75 percent of the auction revenue would be returned to every citizen of the United States through rebate checks. The average family of four in Maine would stand to gain almost $400 each year. This bill represents the right approach, a thoughtful approach, to spur the development of green energy and the creation of green energy jobs. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the practical concepts of the CLEAR Act.

Let me be clear: global climate change and the development of alternatives to fossil fuels are significant environmental and economic challenges facing our country. The scientific evidence demonstrates the human contribution to climate change, and we must act to mitigate that impact. But, we must proceed with care and not allow the federal EPA to charge ahead on a problem that affects every aspect of our already fragile economy. Congress, not the EPA, should decide how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.