U.S. Senate climate deal thin on details, praised by clean energy backers

The package would cut U.S. emissions 40% by 2030, a summary released by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said. The summary did not detail the baseline for the cut nor exactly what kind of emissions would be reduced, leaving room for potential changes as the measure advances.

Heather Zichal, the head of American Clean Power, a group of renewable energy companies, said Congress was now close to passing “the biggest climate and clean energy investment in American history.”

Democrats hope to pass the bill by a simple majority in the Senate. It must also pass the House, where Democrats also have a razor-thin majority, and be signed by President Joe Biden.

Biden, who has faced soaring oil prices and record gasoline prices that have helped drive inflation to 40-year highs, said the bill would “improve our energy security and tackle the climate crisis.” He has set goals of decarbonizing the U.S. economy by 2050.

The bill contains a “methane emissions reduction program” to cut leaks of the potent greenhouse gas methane from drilling of natural gas, according to the summary.

It was not immediately clear how that related to a methane fee many Democrats had wanted on the emissions to penalize energy companies for the leaks.

Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and the swing vote who has received more donations from oil and gas companies than any other lawmaker in recent years, had pushed for companies not to face the fee if they were unable to build a pipeline to carry the gas to market.

Manchin said the bill would invest in hydrogen, nuclear power, renewables, fossil fuels and energy storage.

“This bill does not arbitrarily shut off our abundant fossil fuels,” said Manchin, who in talks on the bill has sought for months to preserve federal oil and gas leasing projects and natural gas pipelines.

Democrats, he added, “have committed to advancing a suite of commonsense permitting reforms this fall that will ensure all energy infrastructure, from transmission to pipelines and export facilities, can be efficiently and responsibly built to deliver energy safely around the country and to our allies.”

The measure has more than $60 billion in environmental justice programs to fight pollution and address public health harms in disadvantaged communities. It also has $20 billion for “climate-smart” agriculture practices, the summary said, without providing details.

The bill contains a $10 billion investment tax credit to build clean technology manufacturing plants for EVs, wind turbines and solar panels, the summary said. It also has an estimated $30 billion investment in production tax credits to accelerate U.S. manufacturing of batteries and wind and solar power components and critical minerals processing.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

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