Tina Smith is not giving up on her clean electricity program


A Senate climate hawk isn’t ready to break the environmental policy of the ‘Build Back Better’ bill to secure climate action and she is optimistic about the prospects of her own plan to deal with rising temperatures.

Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) Told E&E News she wanted the Senate to vote on the $ 1.7 trillion climate and social spending bill rather than trying to pass key provisions individually.

“We’ve done everything we can to get a behind-the-scenes deal with the ‘Build Back Better’ policies, and sooner or later you just have to start voting and drop the chips where they can,” he said. she declared.

Smith was the architect of one of the most aggressive climate ideas in years, the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which reportedly offered utilities financial incentives to sell more renewable energy.

The policy, which could have led to the shutdown of old coal and gas-fired power plants, was targeted by Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), who demanded it be removed from the bill. Then, in December, Manchin completely imploded negotiations, declaring that he would oppose the “Build Back Better” package.

In response, Smith called Manchin “totally unpatriotic”.

“I think we all needed a little cooling off,” Smith said in an interview late last week. “It all went to hell in a basket at the end of the year, and in every negotiation I’ve been in, sometimes you just need to take a step back, let everyone calm down and then come back to the table. And that’s where we are right now.

Manchin, Senate energy and natural resources chairman, said last week he was open to adopting climate policy, even though lawmakers remain far removed from child tax credits and d ” other provisions of the ‘Build back better’ bill, which contains $ 555 million in climate-related spending (Daily E&E, January 5).

Smith said she did not drop out of the Clean Electricity Performance Program. She thinks it’s an important tool and is considering how to get a version of the plan through Congress.

She said she had spoken with public service officials and with current and former Republican members of Congress to develop a strategy that could win GOP votes at some point in the future.

“I believe we’ll find a way to do it,” Smith said. “This is clearly the right policy; it is so clearly the right thing to do.

Getting a version of the “Build Back Better” bill through Congress is a top climate priority for most Democrats over the next few months. The Senate is now focused on advancing voting rights legislation.

Still, Smith said that whatever form the “Build Back Better” plan takes, it won’t be enough to keep global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, so she’s working on another. climate legislation: electrification.

Climate advocates have pushed for more electrification of buildings to reduce reliance on natural gas as a source of heat.

Smith said she was working on a bill with Sen. Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) to address these issues.

“We are emphasizing both the supply of electricity and the demand for electricity and what that means in terms of building US supply chains, not just for clean electricity like solar power and the battery storage, but also what we can do on the demand side with the electrification of buildings, heating, air conditioning and appliances, ”Smith said. “I think this is extremely exciting and transformative in the long run.”

She is working on a separate bill to increase energy efficiency in public buildings.

“Every energy that you don’t use through efficiency is not needed for production, which is often not taken into account, but it’s really important to keep energy prices low and create jobs and build that supply chain here in the United States. “said Smith.

Smith said his party needed to show voters ahead of the midterm elections later this year that Democrats can pass major climate legislation.

Ahead of the election, she hopes Democrats will be able to say “we have adopted some of the most transformational energy policies in ‘Build Better’ which has the strongest clean energy tax credits that will boost the economy. development of clean energy and carbon capture, and that we have massive and significant investments in our transport and transmission sector, which will help us to get more clean energy in the grid and to make this more efficient network, ”she said.

This story also appears in Climate wire.

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