Energy Bill Passed by House Has Many Provisions on Climate Change Impacts, Assessment, Adaptation


An omnibus energy bill (HR 3221) and a companion energy tax package (HR 2776) were passed by the House of Representatives in a rare Saturday session on August 4 2007. Both are voluminous and contain hundreds of provisions that, if signed into law, would reorient the United States toward cleaner and more efficient energy technologies and approaches, and take significant steps to address climate change. However, President Bush has already indicated he will veto both bills.

The New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act of 2007 [PDF], introduced on July 30, 2007 by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (CA), has nine titles that represent the collective work of ten major Congressional Committees.   In our review, we discovered more than a dozen major provisions requiring federal agencies to engage in climate change research, impacts assessments, and adaptation activities – provisions that arguably fall under the purview of the Climate Change Science Program, formerly known as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).   The bill also repeals the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and re-establishes the USGCRP (see related entry).  

The omnibus energy bill (HR 3221) passed the House by a vote of  241 to 172 (26 Republicans voted in favor of it, 9 Democrats voted in opposition; 20 Members didn’t vote).  Twenty three amendments were considered, most of which were approved by voice vote.   A handful of high-visibility provisions have caused wide public attention to the bill’s passage, especially among those who believe we need to reorient our energy mix toward cleaner, more sustainable sources.   One high-visibility provision, offered as an amendment by Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM), would require 49 states (Hawaii is excluded) to adopt a Renewable Energy Standard (RES, also called a Renewable Portfolio Standard), to generate 15% of their electricity from a list of specified renewable energy sources by the year 2020, scaling up a few percentage points each year starting in 2010.   Versions of this standard are already in place in more than 20 states.   The RES provision is expected to be hotly contested in the House-Senate conference committee, along with a measure requiring a tightening of automobile efficiency standards, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, included in a comparable Senate bill but absent from the House-passed bill

The House also passed the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 [PDF]   which includes a vast array of tax incentives and benefits for energy efficiency and “clean” energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, and other forms of renewable energy, and pays for these programs by reducing subsidies currently being afforded to the oil and gas industries, estimated to be worth approximately $16 billion.   This bill passed the House by a vote of 221 to 189 (9 Republicans voted in favor of it, 11 Democrats opposed it, 23 Members didn’t vote.)  

The Senate passed its version of omnibus energy legislation in June 2007: a House-Senate conference committee is expected to take up the measures in late 2007.   However, the President has indicated he will veto the bills:  an official White House statement said the energy bill and its related tax package would "fail to deliver American consumers or businesses more energy security, but rather would lead to less domestic oil and gas production, higher energy costs, and higher taxes."   Upon passage, Energy Secretary Bodman released the following statement:   “Today the House passed legislation that does little to increase our nation’s energy security or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the bills will actually lead to less domestic oil and gas production and increased dependence on imported oil. Because H.R. 2776 and H.R. 3221 fail to deliver American consumers or businesses more energy security, but rather would lead to higher energy costs and higher taxes, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto these bills."

Among the higher visibility measures in HR 3221 are more than a dozen lesser known provisions directly related to climate change research, assessment, and adaptation, all of which were either extracted as a whole or in part from other bills reported out of 10 House Committees.    They establish a variety of major policies and programs, covering a broad range of topics including our nation’s water supplies, oceans, coastal zone management, public lands, wildlife, emergency response, and international negotiations.   Even the tax bill requires a form of climate change policy research:   a full “carbon audit” of the entire Internal Revenue Code to assess the climate change implications of current tax law.  Most if not all of the provision in HR 3221 logically belong under the purview of the Climate Change Science Program, which would become a newly established US Global Change Research Program under this bill – and would be configured similarly to the USGCRP that predated the Bush Administration.   In acknowledgment of this, several of the new programs created in HR 3221 require coordination with the USGCRP created under Title IV, Subtitle G (see related post).  

This bill demonstrates a high degree of commitment on behalf of our elected officials to create a requisite level of national preparedness for climate change impacts, which are increasingly being felt and reported today, and which are projected to continue and escalate into the future especially under business-as-usual emissions scenarios.    It is an acknowledgment on behalf of Congress that these impacts are likely to have strong implications for our environment and natural resources, and for every major economic sector.   It is also an apparent acknowledgment that these important activities and programs are not already taking place in our federal government under the Bush-Cheney Administration.    The actions of all of these Congressional Committees is an obvious attempt to fill a leadership vacuum.   They are an understandable reaction to the Administration’s termination and suppression of the “National Assessment of Climate Change,” which, if being a carried out today as required under the Global Change Research Act, would presumably have similar functions and benefits to those being proposed by Congress.   These climate change impacts assessment functions are not being filled by the CCSP in any meaningful way. 

Climate Science Watch has also discovered climate change assessment and adaptation provisions in a variety of other authorization and appropriations bills in the 110 th Congress.   Taken together, these provisions, while laudable, are fragmented and conceptualized in an uncoordinated, disparate fashion, and as such, do not represent the kind of integrated program we should expect from our government on such an important issue.   The leadership vacuum is compelling not just Congress, but the private sector as well, to fill essential informational and readiness gaps.   Various efforts are being undertaken by organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and other nonprofit organizations to encourage regional climate change assessments and to help prepare the country for climate change impacts.  

However, as well-intentioned as these efforts are, they may be less effective and desirable than a comprehensive, integrated effort.   For example, the National Academy of Sciences is being asked to perform a number of ambitious studies which together may exceed its capabilities.  In the absence of strong leadership in the Executive Branch, this legislation suggests that Congress may introduce a patchwork of programs, geographic disparities, skewed resource and funding allocations, redundancies, and other problems..

A summary of HR 3321 follows, beginning with excerpts from the Table of Contents; titles and subtitles relevant to climate change assessment and adaptation activities appear in bold.  

HR 3221

“Moving the United States toward greater energy independence and security, developing innovative new technologies, reducing carbon emissions, creating green jobs, protecting consumers, increasing clean renewable energy production, and modernizing our energy infrastructure.”

Table of Contents

TITLE I   –   Green Jobs

TITLE II –   International Climate Cooperation Re-engagement Act

TITLE III – Small Energy Efficient Businesses

TITLE IV – Science and Technology

  • Subtitle A – Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) at DOE
  • Subtitle B – Marine Renewable Energy Technologies
  • Subtitle C –   Geothermal Energy
  • Subtitle D –   Solar Energy
  • Subtitle E –   Biofuels
  • Subtitle F – Carbon Capture and Storage
  • Subtitle G – Global Change Research

TITLE V   –   Agriculture Energy

TITLE VI –   Carbon-Neutral Government

TITLE VII – Natural Resources Committee Provisions

  • Subtitle D – Carbon Capture and Climate Change Mitigation
    • Chapter 1 –   Geological Sequestration Assessment
    • Chapter 2 –   Terrestrial Sequestration Assessment
    • Chapter 3 –   Sequestration Activities
    • Chapter 4 –   Natural Resources and Wildlife Programs
    • Chapter 5 –   Ocean Program

TITLE VIII – Transportation and Infrastructure

  • Subtitle E – Aviation
  • Subtitle G – Water Resources and Emergency Management Preparedness

TITLE IX   – Energy and Commerce

  • Subtitle A – Promoting Energy Efficiency
  • Subtitle B – Smart Grid Facilitation
  • Subtitle C – Loan Guarantees
  • Subtitle D – Renewable Fuel Infrastructure and International Cooperation

A brief summary of the provisions relating to climate change research and adaptation follows.

Title VII     (Committee on Natural Resources)
Subtitle D   — Carbon Capture and Climate Change Mitigation

Chapter 4 – Natural Resources and Wildlife Programs
Subchapter A – Natural Resources Management & Climate Change

SEC. 7441.   Establishes a National Resources Management Council on Climate Change, to address the impacts of climate change on Federal lands, the ocean environment, and the Federal water infrastructure.  The Council is to include the head of 9 agencies, including:

  1. The Bureau of Land Management
  2. The National Park Service
  3. United States Geological Survey
  4. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service
  5. The Forest Service
  6. The Bureau of Reclamation.
  7. The Council on Environmental Quality
  8. The Minerals Management Service
  9. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

The Council is directed to coordinate its activities with those of the USGCRP. The Council is charged with developing an interagency inventory and GIS database of ecosystems, water supplies, and water infrastructure vulnerable to climate change;   managing land, water, and ocean resources in a manner that takes into account projected climate change impacts (including prolonged periods of drought and changing hydrology); developing consistent protocols to incorporate climate change impacts in land and water management decisions across land and water resources; and incorporate the most current, peer-reviewed science on climate change and the economic, social, and ecological impacts of climate change into the decision making process (of the above-listed agencies)

Subchapter B – National Policy and Strategy for Wildlife

SEC 7451-7454.    Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act

This section calls for a n ational policy and strategy for wildlife and global warming, and states that it is the policy of the Federal Government (in cooperation with State, tribal, and affected local governments, other concerned public and private organizations, landowners, and citizens) to use all practicable means and measures) (1) to assist wildlife populations and their habitats in adapting to and surviving the effects of global warming; and (2) to ensure the persistence and resilience of the wildlife of the United States, together with its habitat, as an essential part of our Nation’s culture, landscape, and natural resources.   This Act also directs the Secretary of Interior to establish a Science Advisory Board comprised 10-20 members recommended by the President of the National Academy of Sciences with expertise in wildlife biology, ecology, climate change and other relevant disciplines. The Board is to “provide scientific and technical advice and recommendations to the Secretary on the impacts of global warming on wildlife and its habitat, areas of habitat of particular importance for the conservation of wildlife populations affected by global warming, and strategies and mechanisms to assist wildlife populations and their habitats in adapting to the impacts of global warming in the management of Federal lands and in other Federal programs for wildlife conservation”

Subchapter C – State and Wildlife Tribal Grants Program

The Secretary of Interior is directed to establish a National Global Warming and Wildlife Science Center within the United States Geological Survey to 1) conduct scientific research on national issues related to the impacts of global warming on wildlife and its habitat and mechanisms for adaptation to, mitigation of, or prevention of such impacts; 2)   consult with and advise [relevant Federal agencies] regarding the impacts of global warming on wildlife and its habitat and mechanisms for adaptation to or mitigation of such impacts, and the incorporation of information regarding such impacts and the adoption of mechanisms for adaptation or mitigation of such impacts in the management and planning for Federal lands and in the administration of Federal wildlife programs; and 3) consult, and to the maximum extent practicable, collaborate with State and local agencies, universities, and other public and private entities regarding their research, monitoring, and other efforts to address the impacts of global warming on wildlife and its habitat.

This Chapter also stipulates that the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce are to ensure that research and other activities carried out pursuant to this section are integrated with climate change program research and activities carried out pursuant to other Federal law.  

Chapter 5 – Ocean Programs
SEC 7471.   Ocean Policy, Global Warming, and Acidification Program

The Secretary of Commerce is directed to develop and implement a national strategy to support coastal State and Federal agency efforts to predict, plan for, and mitigate the impacts on ocean and coastal ecosystems from global warming, relative sea level rise and ocean acidification; and ensure the recovery, resiliency, and health of ocean and coastal ecosystems.   The strategy is to include goals and measures to (A) incorporate climate change adaptation strategies into the planning and management of ocean and coastal programs and resources administered by the Department of Commerce; (B) support restoration, protection, and enhancement of natural processes that minimize the impacts of relative sea level rise, global warming, and ocean acidification; (C) minimize the impacts of global warming and ocean acidification on marine species and their habitats;   (D) identify, protect, and restore ocean and coastal habitats needed to build healthy and resilient ecosystems; (E) support the development of climate change resiliency plans under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972  (F) provide technical assistance and training to other Federal agencies, States, local communities, universities, and other stakeholders; and (G) identify additional research that is needed to better anticipate and plan for the impacts of global warming and ocean acidification on ocean and coastal resources.    The strategy is to be developed in coordination with other plans and is to be periodically revised “to reflect new information on the impacts of global warming, relative sea level rise, and acidification on ocean and coastal ecosystems and their resources and advances in the development of strategies for adapting to or mitigating for such impacts.

SEC. 7472.   Planning for Climate Change in the Coastal Zone

This section amends the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 by establishing a “coastal climate change resiliency planning and response program” under which coastal states would receive grants and assistance in developing “coastal climate change resiliency plans… to minimize contributions to climate change and to prepare for and reduce the negative consequences that may result from climate change in the coastal zone.”   These plans could include activities to address physical disturbances or challenges to wildlife habitat within the coastal zone; to monitor, control, or eradicate disease organisms and invasive species; to implement projects to reduce, mitigate, or otherwise address likely impacts caused by natural hazards in the coastal zone (including sea level rise, coastal inundation, coastal erosion and subsidence, severe weather events such as cyclonic storms, tsunamis and other seismic threats, and fluctuating Great Lakes water levels) and to provide technical training and assistance to local coastal policy makers to increase awareness of science, management, and technology information related to climate change and adaptation strategies.

SEC. 7473.   Enhancing Climate Change Predictions.

The “National Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation Act of 2007” establishes a National Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System comprised of Federal and non-Federal components, coordinated at the national level by the National Ocean Research Leadership Council and at the regional level by a network of Regional Information Coordination Entities, that includes in situ, remote, and other coastal and ocean observations, technologies, and data management and communication systems, to gather specific coastal and ocean data variables and to ensure the timely dissemination and availability of usable observation data.   The System’s purpose is also to “improve the Nation’s capability to measure, track, explain, and predict events related directly and indirectly to weather and climate change, natural climate variability, and interactions between the oceanic and atmospheric environments, including the Great Lakes .”    This section authorizes activities “to promote basic and applied research to develop, test, and deploy innovations and improvements in coastal and ocean observation technologies, modeling systems, and other scientific and technological capabilities to improve our conceptual understanding of weather and climate, ocean atmosphere dynamics, global climate change, and physical, chemical, and biological dynamics of the ocean and coastal and Great Lakes environments.”   An existing Council, the National Ocean Research Leadership Council is charged with establishing broad coordination and long-term operations plans, policies, protocols, and standards for the System.   An existing “Interagency Working Group on Ocean Observations” (established by a 2004 Executive Order)  is charged with implementing plans and policies developed by the Council; developing a coordinated budget request for the System; identifying gaps in observation data; and other responsibilities. A System Advisory Committee is to be established to advise the Interagency Working Group as well as the Administrator of NOAA, which is designated as the lead agency for this System.   A set of   “regional information coordination entities” are to be created to engage the private and public sectors in designing, operating, and improving regional coastal and ocean observing systems to ensure their needs are met.

Title VIII    (Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)

This Title presents the “Transportation Energy Security and Climate Change Mitigation Act of 2007.”   It establishes a Center for Climate Change and Environment of the Department of Transportation and directs it to coordinate its activities with the United States Global Change Research Program.   The overall purpose of this Act is to “ strengthen our Nation’s energy security and mitigate the effects of climate change by promoting energy efficient transportation and public buildings, creating incentives for the use of alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy, and ensuring sound water resource and natural disaster preparedness planning.”

Subtitle E—Aviation

SEC. 8501.   Establishes an “ Environmental Mitigation Pilot Program” under which the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Administrator of the USEPA, is to establish a pilot program to carry out not more than 6 environmental mitigation demonstration projects at public-use airports “to measurably reduce or mitigate aviation impacts on noise, air quality, or water quality in the vicinity of the airport.”    It defines ‘‘environmental mitigation demonstration project’’ as a project that—demonstrates at a public-use airport environmental mitigation techniques or technologies with associated benefits, which have already been proven in laboratory demonstrations;   utilizes methods for efficient adaptation or integration of innovative concepts to airport operations; and demonstrates whether a technique or technology for environmental mitigation identified in research is both practical to implement at or near multiple public-use airports, and capable of reducing noise, airport  emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, or water quality impacts in measurably significant amounts.   It provides for grants, not to exceed $2.5 million each.    (Note that this provision does not appear to explicitly address the problem of carbon dioxide and other aircraft emissions as the aircraft are in flight.)  

Subtitle G—Water Resources and Emergency Management Preparedness

This subtitle contains several major provisions regarding the relationships between climate change and our water resources.

SEC. 8701 states that it is the policy of the United States that “all Federal water resources projects   (1) reflect national priorities for flood damage reduction, navigation, ecosystem restoration, and hazard mitigation and consider the future impacts of increased hurricanes, droughts, and other climate change-related weather events; (2) avoid the unwise use of floodplains, minimize vulnerabilities in any case in which a floodplain must be used, protect and restore the extent and functions of natural systems, and mitigate any unavoidable damage to aquatic natural system; and (3) to the maximum extent possible, avoid impacts to wetlands, which create natural buffers, help filter water, serve as recharge areas for aquifers, reduce floods and erosion, and provide valuable plant and animal habitat.”

SEC. 8702 e stablishes the “ 21st Century Water Commission,” charged with using existing water assessments, and conducting additional studies and assessments as needed, to project future water supply and demand; to project impacts of climate change to our Nation’s flood risk and water availability, and associated impacts of climate change on water quality.    It is also charged with evaluating a range of water management programs at all levels of government in terms of their hazard mitigation strategies and contingency planning in light of climate change impacts, including sea level rise, flooding, and droughts.   It is to develop a set of recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy that has many functions and takes into consideration climate change impacts on water resources (such as the need for hazard mitigation due to flood and drought risks and extreme weather conditions).   The Commission is to be composed of 8 members who shall be appointed by the President, the Speaker of the House, and various House and Senate Committees. The Commission is to hold hearings, at least one of which will focus on potential water resource issues relating to climate change and how to mitigate the harms of climate change-related weather events. It is to report its findings to the President and various House and Senate Committees not more than 5 years after the date of its first meeting; its authority then expires 30 days after the transmittal of the final report.  

SEC. 8703 requires the National Academy of Sciences (in an arrangement with the USEPA) to produce a two-year study that identifies the potential impacts of climate change on the Nation’s watersheds and water resources, including hydrological and ecological impacts and the potential for impacts to wetlands, shoreline erosion, and saltwater intrusion as a result of sea level rise, and the potential for significant regional variation in precipitation events to impact Federal, State, and local efforts to attain or maintain water quality.   It is also to identify appropriate response actions including provisions to attain or maintain water quality standards and for adequate stream flows for wetlands and aquatic resources; and recommend any needed legislative or regulatory changes to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.

SEC. 8704 requires the Secretary of the Army to ensure that water resources projects and studies carried out by the Corps of Engineers take into account the potential short and long term effects of climate change.   The Secretary is directed to utilize a representative range of climate change scenarios, including the current projections of the United States Global Change Research Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and within one year to submit a report to House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

SEC. 8731 requires the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a comprehensive study of the increase in demand for the Agency’s emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation programs and services that may be reasonably anticipated as a result of an increased number and intensity of natural disasters affected by climate change, including hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires, droughts, and severe storms (including an analysis of the budgetary and personnel needs of meeting these increased demands).   FEMA is to issue a report, within one year, to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.

TITLE II    (Committee on Foreign Affairs)

The International Climate Cooperation Re-engagement Act e stablishes a Global Climate Change Office within the Department of State, and creates the position of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Climate Change as head of the office, appointed by the President, to advance the goals of the US with respect to reducing the emissions of global greenhouse gases and addressing the challenges posed by global climate change; to be a principal adviser to the President and the Secretary of State on matters relating to global climate change; to make recommendations to the President and the Secretary of State on relevant policies; and to represent the US internationally, subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State.   

House Floor Amendment:

A section to Title II added as a House floor amendment offered by Rep. Solis (D-CA) directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with USAID and USEPA and other appropriate Federal departments and agencies, to report on the impact of global climate change on developing countries that includes (1) an assessment of the current and anticipated needs of developing countries in adapting to the impact of global climate change; and (2) a strategy to address the current and anticipated needs of developing countries in adapting to the impact of global climate change, including the provision of United States assistance to developing countries, and an identification of existing funding sources and a description of new funding sources that will be required specifically for such purposes.”   The report is to be submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

HR 2776

This tax bill contains numerous tax incentives and benefits for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.  

One provision tangentially related to “climate research” is a requirement under Title IV of the bill for a “carbon audit” of the tax code.   Section 401 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to   enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a comprehensive review of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to identify the types of and specific tax provisions that have the largest effects on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and to estimate the magnitude of those effects. The study is expected to take two years;   $1.5 million is authorized.

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