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February 12, 2020

US House GOP starts to roll out broad climate plan

Amid mounting pressure from Democrats to tackle climate change, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced four bills on Feb. 12 aimed at capturing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

The bills are the first plank of a broader climate plan that House GOP lawmakers plan to roll out this Congress to define their stance on the issue ahead of the 2020 elections.

One of the bills, from Republican U.S. Reps. David Schweikert of Arizona and Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, would make permanent the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and sequestration systems installed at power plants and other industrial facilities. The legislation would also increase a tax credit for direct air capture of carbon emissions.

President Donald Trump signed legislation into law in 2018 to extend the 45Q credit to CCS projects that start construction before Jan. 1, 2024. But developers are still awaiting guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service on what projects can qualify, giving industry a shorter timeframe to begin construction.

Also on Feb. 12, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., released the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage Innovation Act, which would promote the development and deployment of CCUS technologies, including by making related pipelines and direct air capture projects eligible for guaranteed loan support from the U.S. Department of Energy. The legislation also seeks to ensure quicker permitting of carbon pipeline infrastructure and would establish a 10-year program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to award funds for direct air capture research, according to a release from McKinley’s office.

Furthermore, the bill would provide “tax deferral parity” between CCUS and other infrastructure projects and aims to avoid duplication between EPA- and DOE-funded research efforts on that technology.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, introduced a third carbon capture bill on Feb. 12 that would support the use of the technology at natural gas-fired power plants. The New Energy Frontiers Through Carbon Innovation Act would establish a DOE-run “Carbon Innovation Hub.” The legislation would direct $50 million of existing DOE funds toward research, development and deployment of carbon capture technology at gas plants, with another $25 million per year of existing DOE funds to be set aside for the innovation hub to examine solutions for carbon utilization.

The fourth and final bill introduced Feb. 12 would support reforestation efforts in a bid to sequester carbon emissions. The Trillion Trees Act from Rep. Bruce Western, R-Ark., would establish that the sense of Congress is that the U.S. should support a United Nations’ initiative to encourage countries, corporations and individuals to help plant a trillion trees globally by 2050. During the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump announced the U.S. will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, making the president a likely supporter of the legislation.

The bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish targets for increased wood growth in domestic forests that will be informed by a newly formed national reforestation task force. The legislation would also provide transferable tax credits to promote the use of building materials that can store carbon, including those made of wood, and directs the EPA to establish policies “reflecting the carbon neutrality of biomass,” according to a summary of the bill from Westerman’s office.

House Republicans are expected to introduce other climate-focused bills in the coming weeks, including proposals focused on conservation and clean energy innovation, according to a Feb. 12 story from Axios.

The GOP measures stand in contrast to many climate proposals from Democrats that have centered on a national price on carbon emissions and firm greenhouse gas reduction targets, including goals to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Those divides make the future of the new Republican climate effort unclear.

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