Senate climate bill falls short on funds for consumer relief

In early November, the Senate climate change bill (the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act) made its way through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Here at the Minnesota Budget Project, we asked Minnesotans to contact our own Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sits on this committee, to ask her to maintain and strengthen the low-income consumer relief provisions related to the cap and trade system. Unfortunately, there was a setback in terms of fully funding consumer relief, and we want to update you on what changes were made and where the bill is headed next.

While the House bill provided full relief for low-income consumers, committing 15 percent of the total emissions allowance value, the Senate version has decreased the overall amount of funds due to deficit reduction requirements. Although the bill still says it provides 15 percent for consumer relief, it is 15 percent of a smaller pot of money. In comparison to the House bill, the Senate bill actually ends up allotting 12.6 percent of the previous total allowance value according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. For more information on the Senate climate bill you can read their full report on the latest markups.

Although the Senate may not be looking at the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act again until early 2010, now is the time to get involved.

The Minnesota Budget Project is hosting two events this week to bring people together to talk about why climate change is a concern for low-income communities and how proposed solutions can create new opportunities. These Convening on Climate Change events are free and will take place in Duluth on December 2nd, and Mankato on December 3rd. You can find the details and RSVP for these events online

Now is also a great time to contact your Senators or plan a visit for when they are home for the holiday break. We suggest the following simple talking points:

  1. Provide full protection to low-income households and extend additional relief to moderate income households by increasing the allowance revenue dedicated to direct consumer relief. At a minimum, dedicate the same amount of revenue as the House bill did—using 15 percent of total allowance revenue.
  2. Redirect allowances currently going to utilities, as needed, to fund direct consumer relief.
  3. Provide additional funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to provide energy assistance to low-income consumers who face above-average cost burdens, risking utility shut-offs or other hardships.

Another reason to act now is because we expect discussion to heat up with the upcoming COP15 international conference on climate change taking place in Copenhagen in December. Find out more online at the COP15 website.

-Leah Gardner (with Julia Jackson, our intern working on climate change)

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About Leah Gardner

Leah Gardner was the Minnesota Budget Project's outreach coordinator.
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