The most sweeping measure in US President Joe Biden’s signature climate change legislation is likely to be dropped because of opposition from a senior figure within his own party.
The Clean Energy Performance Programme, known as CEPP, would pay utility companies that switch from fossil fuels to renewable or clean energy sources and fine those who refuse.
But, according to NBC News, sources say the programme is likely to be dropped from a spending bill currently being discussed on Capitol Hill.
Opposition from Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents the fossil-fuel heavy state of West Virginia, would make passage of the bill impossible. With Republican support, the bill would require all 50 Democrats to vote yes.
The Biden administration had been counting on the $150 billion CEPP programme to make the bulk of the greenhouse gas emission reductions in the bill.
The president has put tackling climate change at the heart of his agenda but, ahead of his attendance at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, failure of such significant legislation would be a major blow.
At the heart of the plan is the ‘Clean Energy Standard’ which would force utilities to increase the power generated from wind, solar and hydropower and reward them with a ‘direct incentive payment’ for meeting their goals. If they fail to meet their targets they would be fined, the money being used to invest in green technology.
Manchin has said the plan is unnecessary because utility companies are already making the move to green technology themselves. Changes in the language and definitions in the bill could still win and support, negotiators hope.
“The CEPP is not going to happen and they are working on alternatives but I don’t know of any that have been accepted by Manchin or the White House,” a source told NBC News.
The White House declined to comment on the negotiations. A spokesman said: “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 wrangling on Capitol Hill has threatened to derail much of Biden’s legislative agenda with divisions between the moderate and progressive Democrats proving especially difficult to bridge.
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Those involved in the negotiations on the spending bill and its climate component say they are hopeful a compromise can still be reached. The collapse of the CEPP though, according to one lobbyist, is “likely but not certain”.
Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota who was one of the authors of the legislation, tweeted: “I’m open to different approaches but I cannot support a bill that won’t get us where we need to be on emissions. There are 50 Democratic senators. Every one of us is needed get this passed.”
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