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US Senate panel unveils more climate bill details

DEMOCRATS in the US Senate will push climate change legislation that would grant, initially at no cost, pollution permits to an array of industries, similar to legislation passed by the House of Representatives last June.
Details unveiled by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee show the Democratic bill would give approximately 30 percent of the free pollution permits to electric utilities and another 5 percent to merchant coal firms. The grants are intended to smooth their transition to cleaner fuels and protect consumer against price increases.

An analysis by the US Environmental Protection Agency said that under the Senate bill, consumers would be hit with only "slightly" higher costs than the House bill's impact, which has been estimated at US$80 to US$111 per year.

"We've reached another milestone as we move to a clean energy future," said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer.

Boxer is working with Senator John Kerry to advance the legislation in the Senate, where it faces staunch opposition from most Republicans and many moderate Democrats.

Other free industry permits outlined by the Senate Democrats include: 9 percent for local natural gas distribution companies; and 4 percent for energy-intensive manufacturers in the steel, cement, paper, glass and other industries in 2012 and 2013, rising to 15 percent in 2014 and 2015.

Electric utility customers would get about 35 percent of the free allowances to help compensate them for the higher costs of energy as utilities move away from burning cheap and highly polluting fossil fuels like coal.

The Alliance to Save Energy applauded the provisions, saying they put needed resources into energy efficiency as part of a broad program to reduce US emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with global warming.


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