Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Beyer introduce carbon cap & dividend bill in Congress

van hollen and beyer

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (L) and Rep. Don Beyer (R)

Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Beyer introduce carbon cap & dividend bill in Congress

By Mary Gable

Big news on Capitol Hill this week: Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) just announced their introduction of a carbon cap and dividend bill, the “Healthy Climate and Family Security Act,” in both houses of Congress.

The bill is not only strongest federal climate bill introduced so far in 2018, but it’s also the first legislation we’ve seen that would return all the revenue to American families through a dividend. The Democratic Congressmen propose raising revenue by auctioning carbon pollution credits for fossil fuel companies that sell in the U.S. One hundred percent of the proceeds from that auction would be disbursed Americans each quarter. As E&E News reported, this approach would reduce emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

Said Sen. Van Hollen at a press conference introducing the bill, “This legislation puts a price on carbon pollution and returns the proceeds directly to the American people at the same time it accelerates the growth of good paying jobs in clean technologies. It is a win-win-win, boosting middle class pocketbooks, growing good paying jobs, and reducing our carbon footprint.”

“Citizens’ Climate Lobby is extremely grateful for the introduction of this bill, which addresses the need to reduce emissions quickly and to charge polluters for their damage while protecting families from rising energy costs,” says Stephanie Doyle, CCL National Outreach and Partnership Coordinator. “While we prefer a fee to a cap, the cap serves a similar role to an increasing fee, and offers a progressive system of dividends that will help protect families during the switch to a decarbonized economy.”

Sen. Van Hollen introduced similar legislation in 2014 and 2015 as a member of the House, but the bill never made it out of committee. It’s possible that the bicameral nature of the new bill will produce a different result this time around. “The fact that there are 22 cosponsors—the most cosponsors for this bill ever—is a continued reassurance that a fee and dividend is a strongly supported policy with bipartisan appeal,” Doyle says. Monday’s announcement was also celebrated by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus.

The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act doesn’t currently have any Republican co-sponsors, however. As a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, Rep. Beyer acknowledges that Republicans in the House “have come a long way” on climate change, but are not quite ready to co-sponsor his bill. Van Hollen added that this bill helps build a foundation for Republicans and carbon pricing. “The point is to build momentum,” he said.

Last year’s climate-related disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides and drought, cost taxpayers some $300 billion. The need for solutions is fresh in Americans’ minds, including many who will vote for new representation in Washington this year. There’s never been a better time for Congress to act on climate.

Mary Gable is a writer and editor who focuses on sustainability and innovation. She's based in Seattle, but takes her work on the road whenever she can.