Klobuchar proposes national greenhouse gas registry
By Frederic J. Frommer
WASHINGTON — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who made the environment a key issue in her Senate campaign last year, proposed a national registry of greenhouse gas emissions Monday as part of an attempt to help reduce such emissions.
Klobuchar’s legislation, which she dubbed a "carbon counter," would help track greenhouse gases as a prelude to legislative efforts to limit emissions through a cap-and-trade or other approach. A cap-and-trade system sets limits on carbon emissions and makes companies pay for producing greenhouse gases.
"If you don’t know what you are looking at and can’t measure it, you can’t fix it," said Klobuchar, D-Minn. "If weight watchers can have a calorie counter, we should be able to put in place a national ‘carbon counter’ so we can figure out the best way to reduce emissions that is good for businesses and good for the environment."
Klobuchar introduced the bill with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
"If we are going to make a mandatory cap-and-trade system work — which is the most effective way of reducing greenhouse gases — we need the best data available on greenhouse gas emissions in the United States," Snowe said.
The bill would require facilities to report their greenhouse gas emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill by Klobuchar, her first major piece of legislation, comes after 31 states — including Minnesota — last week formed a "Climate Registry" to keep tabs on greenhouse gases.
"They were basically crying out for a national registry," Klobuchar said of the states. "This has been a pattern here where the states have been courageous, like Minnesota, and have acted aggressively, and have focused on renewable energy, and the federal government’s been lagging behind."
To date, Klobuchar has not co-sponsored one of several major bills pending in the Senate that would set up a cap-and-trade system to lower carbon emissions, but says she supports them.
"I’m just trying to get the strongest bill out of our committee," Klobuchar said, referring to the Environment and Public Works Committee. "And I may well go on them. I’m just trying to work with all of the members that sponsored the different bills to get the strongest bill.
"The idea here is to get the registry passed immediately," she added, "so that depending on which approach is used — whether it’s cap-and-trade or another approach — we have the information in place and ready to go."
Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said Klobuchar’s bill would lay a foundation for a cap-and-trade system.
"There’s somebody out there who’s got to do the hard work, it’s not always the sexy work," Bovey said. "And she’s doing the hard work, and we’re grateful for it."
The American Petroleum Institute, a national trade group for the oil and natural gas industry, reacted cautiously to the proposal.
Spokeswoman Karen Matusic said the group favors a voluntary registry; Klobuchar’s would be mandatory. But she said the group hasn’t had time to review the legislation.
John O’Donnell, director of federal government affairs for Xcel Energy, said that while the company was still reviewing the bill, it applauded Klobuchar for trying to get accurate reporting on greenhouse gases.
"We believe that a comprehensive emissions catalog is a vital precursor for policy makers as they struggle to design effective policies to address greenhouse gas emissions, a goal we share with the senator," he said.
The legislation has an exemption for small businesses — those with less than 500 employees or less than $6.5 million in annual revenue — that generate fewer than 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Also Monday, the state’s other senator, Republican Norm Coleman, talked up the need for renewable energy as a solution to global warming during an appearance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.