Salazar votes against climate bill

Democrats get narrow victory in House; measure goes to Senate

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., voted with the minority Friday evening as the House of Representatives passed a cap-and-trade measure that backers said was a historic vote aimed at curbing global warming.

Opponents described the measure, H.R. 2454, as a giant tax increase that would ultimately do little to affect climate change.

The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.

Salazar, whose 3rd Congressional District includes most of the Western Slope, said climate change needs to be addressed but that “the bill voted on today places a disproportionate burden on the backs of my constituents.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will cost the average U.S. household $165 annually, Salazar said, noting that in the mountainous regions of western and southern Colorado, estimated annual increases are between a few hundred dollars and several thousand dollars per household. 

“I cannot support dramatically increasing utility rates on my constituents at a time when I feel the economy is just starting to stabilize across the state,” he said.

Grand Valley Power in Grand Junction this month sent letters to customers warning them of sharp increases in utility bills should the cap-and-trade measure pass.

The measure now heads to the Senate. Salazar said he would work with rural districts to make sure they are not unfairly burdened.

It is “the most important energy and environmental legislation in the history of our country,” said Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. “It sets a new course for our country, one that steers us away from foreign oil and towards a path of clean American energy.”

But Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a “defining bill.” He called it a “bureaucratic nightmare” that would cost jobs, depress real estate prices and put the government into parts of the economy where it now has no role.

• The legislation would require the United States to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by mid-century. That was slightly more aggressive than President Obama originally wanted: 14 percent by 2020 and the same 80 percent by mid-century.
U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are rising at about 1 percent a year and are predicted to continue increasing without mandatory limits.

• The government would limit heat-trapping pollution from factories, refineries and power plants and issue allowances for polluters. Most of the allowances would be given away, but about 15 percent would be auctioned by bid and the proceeds used to defray higher energy costs for lower-income individuals and families.
“Some would like to do more. Some would like to do less,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in advance of the final vote. “But we have reached a compromise ... and it is a compromise that can pass this House, pass that Senate, be signed by the president and become law and make progress.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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