New House, Senate Spill Bills Have Little or Nothing on Climate

by Hannah Chang

On Tuesday, July 27, oil spill response bills were introduced in both the House and Senate.  These bills are a legislative response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster but also contain the remnants of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation that was shelved by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on July 22.  According to President Obama, the severely pared-down clean energy provisions of the oil spill legislation would be “an important step in the right direction” towards future comprehensive climate legislation.  Given that the 238-page House bill introduced by Rep. Rahall of West Virginia has no clean energy or energy efficiency provisions at all, and that the 409-page Senate bill never once mentions climate change, characterization of these packages as even “a step,” much less an important one, towards clean energy reform and climate change legislation is optimistic to say the least.

This blog is the first of three in a series that will address the very few climate change-related provisions of the newly-introduced spill bills.  The House bill focuses narrowly on oil spill response.  The Senate bill is only slightly more pertinent to climate change and contains two sections relevant to the reduction of greenhouse gases: Division B “Reducing Oil Consumption and Improving Energy Security” (addressing clean vehicles) and Division C “Clean Energy Jobs and Consumer Savings” (creating a rebate program for home retrofits that would increase energy efficiency).  The next two blogs in this series will closely analyze Divisions B and C of the Senate bill.

As the following shortened Table of Contents indicates, the House bill, H.R. 3534 entitled the “Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2010” (CLEAR), focuses on oil spill response, including reform of the Department of Interior, reform of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and provisions for improved regional coordination and oil spill accountability.

  • Title I: Creation of New Department of the Interior Agencies (§§ 101-108, p. 9-37)
  • Title II: Federal Oil and Gas Development
    • Subtitle A: Safety, Environmental, and Financial Reform of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (§§ 201-223, p. 38-105)
    • Subtitle B: Royalty Relief for American Consumers (§§ 241-243, p. 105-110)
  • Title III: Oil and Gas Royalty Reform (§§ 301-320, p. 110-125)
  • Title IV: Full Funding for the Land and Water Conservation and Historic Preservation Funds
    • Subtitle A: Land and Water Conservation Fund (§§ 401-403, p. 126-127)
    • Subtitle B: National Historic Preservation Fund ( § 411, p. 127-128)
  • Title V: Gulf of Mexico Restoration (§§ 501-503, p. 128-137)
  • Title VI: Coordination and Planning (§§ 601-606, p. 137-161)
  • Title VII: Oil Spill Accountability and Environmental Protection (§§ 701-730, p. 161-223)
  • Title VIII: Miscellaneous Provisions (§§ 801-810, p. 223-238).

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are nowhere mentioned in the House bill, and climate change is mentioned exactly once.  Section 605 establishing an Ocean Resources Conservation and Assistance Fund would allow the Secretary of Interior to use these funds and to award grants for activities, including “activities to improve the ability of [ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes] ecosystems to become more resilient, and to adapt to and withstand the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.”  H.R. 3534, p. 160.  In short, the House bill doesn’t even begin to take steps to address clean energy reform and greenhouse gas reduction.

The as-yet unnumbered Senate bill, entitled the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010,” also focuses largely on oil spill response, but does include two discrete sections that limitedly address GHG reductions through promotion of clean vehicles and improved energy efficiency in homes.  The following shortened Table of Contents gives a sense of the bill’s scope.

  • Division A: Oil Spill Response and Accountability
    • Title I: Removal of Limits on Liability for Offshore Facilities (§§ 101-106, p. 6-17)
    • Title II: Federal Research and Technologies for Oil Spill Prevention and Response (§§ 201-205, p. 17-38)
    • Title III: Outer Continental Shelf Reform (§§ 301-311, p. 38-120)
    • Title IV: Environmental Crimes Enforcement (§§ 401-402, p. 120-122)
    • Title V: Fairness in Admiralty and Maritime Law (§§ 501-506, p. 123-128)
    • Title VI: Securing Health for Ocean Resources and Environment (Shore)
      • Subtitle A: NOAA Oil Spill Response, Containment, and Prevention (§§ 611-616, p. 128-151)
      • Subtitle B: Improving Coast Guard Response and Inspection Capacity (§§ 621-633, p. 151-170)
    • Title VII: Catastrophic Incident Planning (§§ 701-702, p. 171-180)
    • Title VIII: Subpoena Power for National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling (§ 801, p. 180-184)
    • Title IX: Coral Reef Conservation Act Amendments (§§ 901-910, p. 184-218)
  • Division B: Reducing Oil Consumption and Improving Energy Security
    • Title XX: Natural Gas Vehicle and Infrastructure Development (§§2001-2005, p. 218-228)
    • Title XXI: Promoting Electric Vehicles (§§ 2101-2102, p. 228-230)
      • Subtitle A: National Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Program (§§ 2111-2117, p. 230-276)
      • Subtitle B: Research and Development (§§ 2121-2124, p. 276-288)
      • Subtitle C: Miscellaneous (§§ 2131-2135, p. 288-305)
  • Division C: Clean Energy Jobs and Consumer Savings
    • Title XXX: Home Star Retrofit Rebate Program (§§ 3001-3016, p. 305-382)
  • Division D: Protecting the Environment
    • Title XL: Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding (§§ 4001-4003, p. 382-390)
    • Title XLI: National Wildlife Refuge System Resource Protection (§§ 4101- 4106, p. 391-397)
    • Title XLII: Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (§ 4201, p. 397-404)
    • Title XLIII: Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals (§ 4301, 404-407)
  • Division E: Fiscal Responsibility (§ 5001, p. 407-408)
  • Division F: Miscellaneous (§ 6001, p. 409)

The two sections relating to GHG reduction are framed as efforts to improve energy security (Division B’s program promoting natural gas and electric vehicles) and to create clean energy jobs (Division C’s home retrofit program).  Climate change itself is not once mentioned in the bill’s 409 pages, although reduction of fossil fuel use and GHG emissions are mentioned as goals of the electric vehicle program (see p. 231, 255).  Title XX of Division B, which would incentivize the development of natural gas vehicles, derives from the bipartisan NAT GAS Act (S. 1408 and H.R. 1835) introduced in both houses of Congress last year.  Division C relating to Home Star similarly derives from previously proposed bipartisan legislation.  In fact, the House passed H.R. 5019, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, earlier this year with 12 Republican votes.

The House will likely vote on its oil spill response bill this Friday.  Debate in the Senate is expected to begin this week.  Any legislation that eventually emerges from these bills will do little for GHG reduction or climate change, unless, perhaps in the lame duck session, some provisions of last year’s Waxman-Markey bill are injected into conference committee deliberations.  If the clean vehicle and home energy efficiency provisions of the Senate bill manage to remain intact, they will provide some limited improvements over business as usual.  However, by no means can this legislation be characterized as even a limited energy reform bill, much less a limited climate change bill.