WASHINGTON – White House officials are looking to scale back a legislative proposal central to President Joe Biden’s climate goals after intense pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., illustrating the West Virginia Democrat’s enormous sway in budget negotiations.
Manchin has made clear that he opposes creation of a Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP, which would reward utilities that increase their clean energy supply by 4% a year – and penalize those that do not.
“Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing,” the senator’s office said in a statement. “He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability.”
White House officials have not decided to completely jettison the CEPP, but are instead looking at how to make changes that would ensure Manchin’s support for the broader economic package.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Manchin had voiced his strong opposition to the program to the White House last week, prompting a reassessment of the measure. White House officials are now working to weaken the program, which is part of a $3.5 trillion bill Manchin and another centrist Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), consider too costly.
If Manchin signals to the White House that he will oppose the package, it will not have enough votes to clear the Senate. That makes his support for any resolution crucial.
The White House had pushed hard for the creation of the CEPP program, as Biden had campaigned aggressively on taking major steps that he said would address global warming. It ranks as the most significant climate proposal under consideration on Capitol Hill. Still, Democrats had not relied solely on CEPP to try to address their climate agenda. There are other provisions of the pending budget agreement that are also targeted at addressing climate change, particularly the creation of tax credits.
“We don’t comment on the state of our negotiations with the wide array of Senators offering views about the Build Back Better agenda,” White House spokesman Vedant Patel said in an email. “The White House is laser focused on advancing the President’s climate goals and positioning the United States to meet its emission targets in a way that grows domestic industries and good jobs.”
The White House’s move comes just weeks before Biden is scheduled to travel to a global climate summit, where some White House officials had hoped to offer a bold vision about ways to battle climate change to other global leaders. Instead, the White House’s climate change agenda is partly unraveling because of Democrats’ slim control of Congress and Manchin’s fierce resistance to certain changes.
With so much unsettled on Capitol Hill, the president’s top envoy for climate, former secretary of state John F. Kerry, warned this week that a failure to adopt legislation promptly could undermine the United States in those upcoming talks set in Glasgow, Scotland. Biden, however, later dismissed the comments as “a little hyperbole,” adding: “It’d be good to have agreement on the climate piece, but we’re going to get the climate piece.”
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told The Post in a recent interview that jettisoning the plan to clean up the nation’s power sector would undercut Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade between 50% and 52% compared with 2005 levels.
“Obviously, that would be a very serious blow to . . . meeting our 2030 goals,” Markey said.
The massive budget bill Democrats are trying to pass includes other provisions aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, such as imposing a tax on imported goods from foreign countries that don’t do enough to tackle climate change. Another nearly $1 trillion bipartisan measure includes other clean energy initiatives, such as subsidies to expand charging stations for electric vehicles across the nation.
But if the power plant program were eliminated, according to an analysis by Energy Innovation, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would be 250 million to 700 million metric tons higher per year in 2030. That wipes out as much as a third of total emissions reductions under both bills.
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