Press Release | May 12, 2010

Climate Bill:  Admirable Goals, Concerns about Details

Statement by the Southern Environmental Law Center on the Introduction of the American Power Act to the U. S. Senate

We welcome a renewed focus in the U.S. Senate on addressing the problem of climate change, and look forward to working with policymakers to improve the effectiveness of draft legislation outlined today by Senators Kerry and Lieberman. We applaud these Senators for introducing a framework that points us toward a long-term reduction in heat-trapping gases.

Unfortunately, several provisions in the bill’s current form threaten to compromise its ability to reduce the heat-trapping emissions generated by burning fossil fuels for energy.
With oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico and climate change threatening our communities, our nation needs to focus on innovative efficiency and renewable energy technologies rather than incentives that encourage America’s continued dependence on oil drilling and fossil fuels.

The treatment of biomass in the legislation is troubling. While the South has many opportunities for power from renewable sources including biomass, the draft legislation eliminates key forest protections and opens the door to a massive conversion of our diverse forests to mono-culture plantations. Sustainability guidelines must accompany any large scale move to using forests for energy production so our forests can continue to shelter wildlife, improve water quality, and store carbon.

Further, climate legislation should not be used as a vehicle to erode existing health and environmental protections under the Clean Air Act. Such Clean Air Act protections vital to the health and well-being of our families and our environment should be championed by our elected representatives.

With so many citizens in need and the enormity of the challenge before us, the Senate should restore money to the public’s wallet and encourage cleaner, more efficient industries by auctioning off credits to make pollution and inefficiency costly. Rebating auction proceeds back to the public in the form of a dividend is an idea that bears careful consideration.