June 16, 2021

Whitehouse & Schatz Introduce Save Our Future Act to Charge Big Polluters for Emissions, Redirect Trillions to American Families and Communities Harmed by Pollution

Large-scale solution would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent after 10 years, improve air quality in environmental justice communities, assist fossil fuel workers and communities, and speed transition to green economy

Washington, D.C. – As Congress deliberates a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure and green energy, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are introducing legislation to drastically drive down the harmful emissions causing climate change and putting Americans’ health and the global economy at risk. By assessing fees on large corporations responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, the Save Our Future Act would cut emissions by roughly 50 percent after ten years, which is in line with scientific targets. It would also improve air quality, particularly in front line communities, create new economic opportunities in fossil fuel communities and environmental justice communities, provide low- and middle-income households with biannual checks, and assist states and tribes in defraying the costs of climate change.

“The Save Our Future Act is a large-scale solution with the power to prevent global temperature increases from spiraling past 1.5 degrees Celsius. Our bill will charge polluters for the harms they cause and redirect that revenue to the American families and communities that have for too long borne the brunt of climate change and air pollution, all while speeding the transition to a green economy and making the air safer to breathe,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The Save Our Future Act can help lead our planet to safety if we act quickly. There is no time left to waste.”

“We need to enact ambitious and sweeping legislation if we are going to solve the climate crisis. There is no single investment or policy that will get us there. We need to do everything, and policies that drive rapid emissions reductions should be core to any serious climate legislation. The Save Our Future Act provides a roadmap to cut emissions and hold polluters accountable, while investing billions back into communities and workers and providing direct checks to Americans in need,” said Senator Schatz.

“We need to advance pragmatic climate solutions like this that will invest in environmental justice, landscape restoration including plugging orphan oil and gas wells, economic diversification in oil and gas producing regions, and support for our energy veterans,” said Senator Heinrich.

“Putting a price on localized air pollution as well as greenhouse gases is one of the best ways we can hold polluters accountable for the damage they do to our environment and to the health of our communities. I’m glad to support legislation to provide a market-based solution that would reduce a broad spectrum of harmful emissions, generate revenue to support American workers and local communities, and get us on the path toward a cleaner, healthier future,” said Senator Murphy.

The Save Our Future Act is also sponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The significant revenues raised by the bill would support Americans affected by pollution and smooth the transition to a green economy. The revenue would be directed toward:

  •  Environmental justice communities: The bill would invest roughly $255 billion over 10 years in existing energy affordability, pollution reduction, business development, career training, and tribal assistance programs.
  • Checks to low- and middle-income families: Consistent with the means testing thresholds established for pandemic relief checks in the American Rescue Plan, every eligible adult would receive $800/year and every eligible dependent $300/year, distributed in two equal installments.
  • Fossil fuel workers and communities: The legislation would invest roughly $120 billion over 10 years in economic development, infrastructure, environmental remediation, assistance to local and tribal governments, and wage replacement, health, retirement, and educational benefits for coal industry workers who lose their jobs.
  • Assistance to states: It would fund $10 billion in annual block grants to states and tribes to defray expenses associated with climate change.

Fees would be charged on the large corporations responsible for the emissions. Greenhouse gases and criteria air pollutants would be priced at their social cost, based on governmental or academic research on the total environmental and public health costs of each pollutant. The pricing schedule laid out in the bill includes:

For carbon dioxide, the price would begin at $54/ton in 2023 (consistent with the Office of Management and Budget’s social cost of carbon estimate) and rise at an inflation-adjusted 6 percent annually. The carbon dioxide price would raise more than $2.4 trillion over ten years. The bill would also impose a fee on methane from the fossil fuel supply chain, F gases, and non-fossil fuel combustion “process emissions” based on their warming potential relative to carbon dioxide.

  • For nitrogen oxides, the price would begin at $6.30/lb. and rise at the rate of inflation.
  • For fine particulate matter, the price would begin at $38.90/lb. and rise at the rate of inflation.
  • For sulfur dioxide, the price would begin at $18/lb. and rise at the rate of inflation.
  • A border adjustment mechanism would prevent carbon leakage and ensure fairness for U.S. manufacturers.
  • An environmental integrity mechanism would establish a cumulative emissions target for each year consistent with a 1.5 degree net zero by 2050 emissions pathway. The price for greenhouse gases would increase by an additional 5 percent after any missed target.

The legislation is supported by the Utility Workers Union of America, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, American Sustainable Business Council, Citizens Climate Lobby, Clean Air Task Force, and the World Resources Institute.

“Senators Whitehouse and Schatz are leading the difficult but important conversations about how America’s energy transition impacts almost 100,000 individuals working in coal and mining facilities today,” said Utility Workers Union of America President James Slevin. “The five years of full wage replacement, health insurance coverage, pension and educational benefits in his legislation together represent a baseline of support we must offer individuals and communities that have powered American innovation for generations. This legislation – along with our recently released cost analysis – will help lawmakers see all of what’s at stake today. We are committed to working together to rally additional support behind this important initiative.”

“Our current system actually rewards the fossil fuel industry for polluting the air, land, and water through perverse subsidies and profligate tax breaks. It’s past time for polluters to be held accountable for their transgressions against people and planet alike. Senators Schatz and Whitehouse have introduced a commonsense emissions pricing mechanism that, if ratified, will end the practice of polluting with impunity by the fossil fuel industry and associated harmful processes. Additionally, revenue generated by this bill will greatly assist with a rapid just transition from fossil fuels while also ensuring that a good portion is allocated to frontline, environmental justice communities who bear the brunt of the climate crisis and other myriad social inequities. While we don’t agree with every provision of the bill, we are thankful to the staffs of the Senators for their inclusive process while the bill was being drafted, and for implementing most of our feedback and recommendations,” the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said in a joint statement.

“With great promise for the climate, vulnerable communities, and wildlife, Senators Whitehouse and Schatz have crafted the next generation of carbon pricing bills,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, director of climate and energy policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “Not only would their proposal drive down a range of climate-altering emissions, but it would also help clean up areas burdened by pollution, as well as return significant revenues to environmental justice and energy transition communities while funding reclamation of degraded lands. These Senators recognize the complex challenges of meeting net-zero emissions goals by mid-century, and have stepped up with a comprehensive approach that supports people and workers in the transition to a clean economy.”

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