Up in the Air

TO ADDRESS GLOBAL climate change while providing companies with a profitable means to reduce emissions, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2004 (H.R. 4067) recently was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen John Olver, D-Mass., and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md. The bill is companion legislation to the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003 that was introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., and was voted down in 2003. However, another senate vote is expected soon.

If the House version of the bill is approved, beginning in 2010, the Climate Stewardship Act would limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity generation, transportation, industrial and commercial economic sectors, according to the Washington-D.C.-based Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The bill also would allow emissions trading allowances and reductions through a National Greenhouse Gas Database, which would keep an inventory of emissions and reductions.

Additionally, the bill, which currently is in committee, would:

  • Require the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a fellowship program for students pursuing graduate studies in global climate change;

  • Appropriate no less than $25 million to the NSF to research climate change priority areas;

  • Initiate a program to develop “innovative” standards and measurement technologies to calculate [GHG] emissions or reductions for which no accurate or reliable measurement technology exists; and

  • Implement a program to perform and support research on climate change standards and processes.



“[This legislation] will encourage renewable energy sources, for example, landfill gas utilization and waste-to-energy, and it will encourage recycling because it's more energy conservative than virgin material use,” says John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America. “But it would increase the costs for anyone who uses fossil fuels, such as collection and recycling trucks and other equipment.”

According to Nicole Letourneau, press secretary for Olver, “this [bill] is a more realistic compromise than some of the other measures that have come before. It's going to be a challenge to get it through committee on the House side, but Rep. Olver hopes that by introducing a bipartisan bill, it will lend to the good momentum that's been building,” she says.

Vicki Arroyo, director of policy analysis at the Pew Center for Global Climate Change also believes the bill will have a tough time in the House. However, Congressional representatives also are discussing legislation regarding the reporting of GHG emissions, she notes.

“We don't have a handle on who the largest GHG emitters are, other than utilities that are required to report under the Clean Air Act,” she explains. “If [entities] are voluntarily report[ing], they are usually reporting specific project reductions.” The United States does not have a total inventory of what GHG are emitting from each specific source, state or section. Therefore, a reporting program to help identify voluntary reduction opportunities before a mandatory program is put in place, which would be a smart first step, Arroyo adds.

But for now, waste managers hoping for Congressional legislation to fuel waste-to-energy or landfill gas to energy projects from the Climate Stewardship Act of 2004 will have to wait and see.