Sen. Heinrich pushes for bill on carbon pollution fee

By:  Theresa Davis

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich testified before the Senate on Monday about what he called the global “climate crisis,” advocating for carbon pollution pricing legislation to reduce harmful emissions.

Heinrich is a co-sponsor of the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, a bill that would charge coal, oil and natural gas companies a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide pollution they produce.

“Our climate crisis often feels too big, too complex, too hard to fix,” the New Mexico Democrat said. “However, the scientific fact is, we have created this problem, and we possess the creativity and the tools and the technology to fix it.”

The legislation was re-introduced in April and referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was the original bill sponsor, and Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., are also co-sponsors. Schatz and Whitehouse also spoke about the bill on Monday.

Heinrich called the bill a “real and pragmatic solution” that would encourage companies to reduce their pollution.

The carbon pollution fee would start at $52 a ton and increase 6% each year.

The legislation would raise an estimated $2.3 trillion over 10 years. That money would be returned to states in the form of tax credits to help pay for a transition toward clean energy. Heinrich said the funds could also be used to train workers for new clean-energy jobs.

Carbon pollution fee legislation has circulated in Congress for at least a decade.

The current carbon pollution fee bill would have a border adjustment provision so that American manufacturers could compete with international manufacturers in countries that do not have a pollution fee.

Heinrich is also a member of the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, which was formed earlier this year in response to what Democrats say is a refusal by Senate Republicans to acknowledge climate change.

“A new generation of young leaders in my home state of New Mexico and all around the world recognize that the climate crisis is not just urgent; it’s literally existential,” Heinrich said Monday on the Senate floor. “These young students and activists are demanding that their elected leaders get to work on implementing solutions to limit its devastating impacts.”

Whitehouse said the bill was a market-based policy that should have bipartisan support. Whitehouse said former Republican administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Reagan, Nixon and both Bush administrations had all advocated for a price on carbon pollution.