By Kevin Fay
March 17, 2020 at 5:00 am ET
Normally, a House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee hearing would be more a procedural undertaking than a news-making event, but Thursday’s markup of H.R. 5544 should have been just that. Passed on a party-line vote, the bill demonstrates that while GOP leaders are calling for action to address the environment, the Republican members can’t even support a bill backed broadly by industry, as well as environment and public health groups alike.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently gathered members to discuss how they can meet America’s energy needs while addressing the global climate situation, releasing this statement:
“Americans want a cleaner, safer, healthier environment. Over the years, conservative principles have shown that while we are becoming energy independent, we are also leading the world in emissions reductions.
“American innovation is always the solution. The proposals laid out today will build on the successful policies that have propelled the United States so far, as well as open the door for new technologies to flourish – all while boosting the economy by exporting American technology around the world. This is a global issue, and substantial progress cannot be made without holding other nations accountable for their emissions. Republicans’ pro-growth, consumer-first policies are ones that can become law and have an actual impact on our future.”
However, there was one important bipartisan piece of legislation missing from these discussions. H.R. 5544, the American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership Act introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Pete Olson (R-Texas), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), and 24 more bipartisan cosponsors, authorizes a phasedown of the current chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning coolants, foams and other uses. It also paves the way for greener, next-generation technologies that U.S. companies can manufacture for global usage.
This important legislation builds upon McCarthy’s goals to increase American jobs, improve global trade, advance America’s technology leadership and environmental stewardship, through a uniform federal program over the next 15 years.
Like the recently introduced Senate HFC phasedown bill, S. 2754, more than two dozen lawmakers from both parties, industry and environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council back H.R. 5544.
While this may seem like a niche energy issue, our research has shown that industries in the United States that use and produce fluorocarbons contribute more than $158 billion annually in goods and services to the American economy, while employing more than 700,000 people.
Adopting the federal framework laid out in H.R. 5544 will also create 33,000 new HVAC manufacturing jobs in the United States, while adding $12.5 billion to the U.S. economy. Beyond job creation and economic growth, the government’s preliminary analysis concludes that the bill would also save consumers nearly $4 billion dollars over the course of the program.
The time to act is now; developing countries are looking to China and other nations to fill their needs if U.S. manufacturers won’t be able to adjust to the changing global standards. We should also be prepared to see a wave of Chinese imports make their way into our market as this unnecessary debate moves forward too slowly.
However, the House Energy & Commerce Committee has an additional chance to take critical steps to ensure passage of this historic bill in the coming weeks. As committee members on both sides of the aisle are debating the merits of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership Act, and as thousands of Americans continue to depend on these products, the Committee should give strong bipartisan support for a bill that is a big win for our economy, and American jobs and technology leadership, and a big win for the environment as well.
Kevin Fay is the executive director for the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy. The Alliance is the leading industry voice on issues relating to the Montreal Protocol, protection of the Earth’s Ozone Layer, and policies that encourage development and commercialization of technologies that improve the quality of life and provide for a more sustainable future.
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