Last week, in the House of Representatives, Chairman Henry Waxman of the Energy & Commerce Committee and Chairman Ed Markey of the Subcommittee on Energy & Environment released draft legislation for comprehensive energy reform and climate change mitigation called the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES).

Reps. Waxman and Markey intend to move this bill out of Committee by Memorial Day. Already, they have announced subcommittee hearings on the legislation once Congress reconvenes the week of April 20, followed by a subcommittee markup the following week. During the week of May 11, the full committee will amend the bill through the markup process.

While the Senate remains undecided on its ultimate strategy for passing comprehensive energy legislation in addition to climate change, the House is committed to moving these pieces in one package. ACES is a four-title bill:

  1. Clean Energy: This title mandates a Renewable Electricity Standard, encourages the development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies, creates a low-carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels, promotes electric vehicle infrastructure and smart grid creation, and authorizes federal agencies to enter into 30-year contracts to purchase renewable electricity.
  2. Energy Efficiency: This title promotes new building efficiency codes, authorizes funding for energy efficiency retrofits to buildings, gives the EPA discretion to create a rating system for buildings' energy efficiency, codifies lighting and appliance efficiency agreements, gives authority to harmonize federal fuel economy standards with California standards, sets pollution standards for mobile emitters, requires state and local efforts to improve transportation emissions, establishes a new energy efficiency resource standard for utilities and industrial processes, and allows nonprofit hospitals and public health facilities to qualify for grants and loan programs under the 2007 energy law.
  3. Reducing Global Warming Pollution: This title creates a cap-and-trade program. It limits emissions of heat-trapping pollutants and creates a system of banking, borrowing, offsets and oversight in which polluters must bid in an auction for allowances for each metric ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent gas released into the atmosphere. This title pre-empts the EPA under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as criteria pollutants or hazardous air pollutants on the basis of their effect on global warming. It also exempts greenhouse gases from the new source review program.
  4. Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy: This title protects U.S. consumers and industry and promotes green jobs during the transition to a clean energy economy through different mechanisms, including rebates to certain industrial sectors, a "border adjustment" tariff to cover carbon content in imported goods and a consumer assistance program. This title also contains assistance to export U.S.-developed clean technologies and establishes an interagency council to coordinate a federal response to the effects of climate change.

The prospects for passage of this bill this year in the House are high, given an increased Democratic majority and President Obama's endorsement of the bill. Speaker Pelosi has indicated she would bring this legislation to the floor in July. In the past, many have looked to the Senate to lead the climate change debate, but this year will be different.