Powerful N.J. congressman unveils new national plan to battle climate change
New Jersey’s most powerful congressman is pushing a new vision for how America should deal with climate change.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th Dist., announced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act — or CLEAN Future Act — earlier this month. Due to his role as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Pallone is uniquely situated to influence federal environmental policy.
On Friday, Pallone was joined by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe at Monmouth University to discuss his new climate plan.
The CLEAN Future Act is a sweeping plan aimed at drastically reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions through a series of new regulations affects a variety of industries. The end goal is to create a 100% clean economy — defined as producing net zero emissions — by 2050.
The bill has not yet been formally introduced, because it is not yet fully written. Pallone said that the details are still being worked out, and he expects that the entire bill with be about 800 pages long. That final version is expected to be released during the last week of January.
According to a memo outlining the main points of the CLEAN Future Act, the measures required by the legislation include:
- A nationwide standard to have 100% of energy supplied by clean sources by 2050.
- Stronger federal energy efficiency requirements in national model building codes.
- Stronger federal emission standards for all vehicles.
- A national “Buy Clean Program” that requires construction projects that receive federal funding use low-emission building materials.
- New environmental justice requirements for state plans for clean air and handling hazardous waste.
- New regulations for methane emissions in the oil and gas industry.
- Individual state climate plans, to allow flexibility in how these targets are reached.
- A National Climate Bank to provide funding for states, municipal and corporate initiatives.
- New initiatives to train workers for green energy jobs.
Pallone acknowledges that the plan, in its entirety, has little chance of being approved by the Republican-controlled Senate or being signed into law by President Donald Trump. But the Congressman did say that some parts of the CLEAN Future Act have bipartisan support, and he hopes to get at least some of it approved.
“We’re laying it out. To the extent that we can get pieces of it passed on a bipartisan basis, we will," Pallone said. "And then, hopefully we’ll have a new President and a Democratic Senate and then they’ll pass it.”
The CLEAN Future Act follows the Green New Deal, a sweeping collection of policy proposals that is championed by progressive Democrats and aims to overhaul American society in order to rapidly eliminate carbon emissions. The Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution that was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and in the Senate by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. The resolution was shot down by the Senate in a March vote, and no vote has been held in the House.
Pallone has made clear that he does not support the Green New Deal, and instead wants more incremental change. But on Friday, he said that nothing in the CLEAN Future Act would not preclude more aggressive measures from being put in place later on either at the federal, state or local levels.
“If anything, I think it fleshes out a lot of things that the Green New Deal would like to see, in terms of specifics,” Pallone said.
The legislation’s definition of “clean” as meaning net-zero emissions could become a sticking point in the future, because it allows for continued development of natural gas infrastructure as long as steps are taken to offset its greenhouse gas emissions.
“We don’t rule out the use of natural gas completely. We’re saying that it has to be net-zero," Pallone said. "For anyone to suggest that somehow you can achieve [a 100% clean economy by 2050] by building a lot more natural gas pipelines or mining a lot more coal and using coal as a main source of energy, you’re not going to be able to do that and reach this 2050 goal.”
Murphy and McCabe both praised the CLEAN Future Act.
“As stewards of this planet, it has become vital that we find a multi-pronged strategy that incorporates both proven and innovative ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, and we must tackle this on a national scale," Murphy said. "In crafting the CLEAN Future Act, Congressman Pallone and his fellow cosponsors have taken a forward-thinking approach that will address the climate crisis head on.”
The plan was also embraced by a number of New Jersey environmental groups.
“The CLEAN Future Act treats the climate crisis like the national crisis that is and will drive states and the innovation economy to achieve a net zero carbon future over the next three decades,” said Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey. “The memory of Hurricane Sandy’s impact is still strong and serves as a clarion call for climate action on the federal level. We are proud to stand with Congressman Pallone to support this initiative.”