May 11, 2009
Waxman Calls for Fast-Tracking Climate Legislation; Follows Obama Meeting with Committee Members
By LESA RAIR, APTA Program Manager
Following a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said May 5 that he may fast-track his climate change bill by bypassing a subcommittee markup. House Democrats leading the bill expect to hold a full committee markup by Memorial Day, and foresee passage of final legislation—including cap-and-trade provisions—by year’s end.
Waxman reiterated the committee’s planned unified front in marking up the bill, stating: “We want to be together, and we want to succeed with this legislation.”
This change means the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee will not mark up the bill as previously scheduled.
The bill, introduced by Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), aims to cap greenhouse emissions by distributing carbon permits. Over time, maximum rates would fall, forcing offending companies to adopt alternative practices or reduce their consumption.
Waxman, along with other committee members, echoed Obama’s support of their aggressive timeline. The president was said to be pushing the committee toward compromise during the hour-long White House meeting. “He made it very clear that passing this measure is one of his key priorities for this year,” said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA).
Although Obama did not specifically back the proposed Waxman-Markey legislation as the way to regulate carbon dioxide and greenhouse emissions, committee members left the meeting with the impression that not only did he not object; he had little concern that movement on energy would interfere with progress on overhauling health care, one of his top priorities.
“He wants us to move. He wants legislation,” stated Waxman. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) called Obama’s tone “very positive, very constructive, very focused on the idea that we have a bill, and the president came down on the side of an aggressive timetable.”
Take Action Now
APTA urges its members immediately to contact committee members who represent their agency, business, or region, including Chairman Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Markey. When you talk to members of the committee, please:
* Urge the committee to dedicate no less than 10 percent of allowance revenue created under a cap-and-trade program to investment in public transportation and transportation infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions;
* Explain that transportation is responsible for one-third of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) and that current public transportation use already saves 4.2 billion gallons of fuel and prevents the emission of 37 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually;
* Ask that revenue derived from transportation fuels under a cap-and-trade program be reinvested in transportation infrastructure; and
* Request that climate change legislation provide assistance to public transportation to offset increases in the cost of fuel and electricity under a cap-and-trade program to prevent service reductions. Transit systems are exempt from federal motor fuels taxes, and this principle should be extended to climate change legislation.