Breakdown: Major Differences Between House & Senate Climate Bills, and Early Reactions

Today Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released their draft climate legislation in the Senate, three months after the House passed its version. Like the House bill, the 800+ page Senate draft legislation aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 40 years, establish a cap-and-trade system and bolstering solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources. Yet there are some striking differences between the bills, which has led some environmentalists to deem the Senate version an improvement over the House-approved bill.

Christa Marshall and Jessica Leber of Climate Wire outlined the primary differences:

1. The Senate bill requires tougher, earlier emission cuts: 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. The House version calls for a 17% reduction.

2. The Senate climate bill give EPA more authority to set greenhouse gas emission limits (whether or not a federal cap-and-trade scheme is put in place), removing strict limits the House bill put on the agency, including pre-empting the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under many existing sections of the Clean Air Act.

3. The Senate bill would allow the EPA to set greenhouse gas emissions performance standards for new coal-fired power plants, as well as major emissions sources that wouldn’t fall under a national carbon cap.

4. The Senate bill would allow states to maintain their own cap-and-trade systems through 2017 in the event that a nationwide cap-and-trade plan is held up significantly.

Reuters, meanwhile, gathered a variety of folks’ reactions, from President Obama (hugely supportive) to United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard (cooperative) to the American Petroleum Institute (no shocker here: displeased).

We’ll be following the debate over the Senate draft bill, and we’re always interested to get your take on the issue, so feel free to comment.

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