House passes landmark climate change bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama scored a major victory on Friday when the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to slash industrial pollution that is blamed for global warming.

The sun reflects on downtown skyscrapers as it sets through the Los Angeles smog and haze in this October 22, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The House passed the climate change bill, a top priority for Obama, by a vote of 219-212. As has become routine on major bills in Congress this year, the vote was a partisan one, with only eight Republicans joining Democrats for the bill.

The Senate is expected to try to write its own version of a climate change bill, but prospects for this year were uncertain.

The House-passed bill requires that large U.S. companies, including utilities, oil refiners, manufacturers and others, reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.

They would do so by phasing in the use of cleaner alternative energy than high-polluting oil and coal.

“The scientists are telling us there’s an overwhelming consensus ... global warming is real and it’s moving very rapidly,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, the chief sponsor of the legislation.

In urging passage, Waxman also said the legislation would create jobs and help move the United States from its reliance on foreign oil.

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But Republicans said the bill was a behemoth that would neither effectively help the environment nor improve an economy reeling from a deep recession.


House Republican leader John Boehner called the measure “the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Representative Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the energy panel, said the measure would set unrealistic targets for cutting carbon pollution. “You would have to reduce emissions in the United States to the level that we had in 1910,” Barton said.

At the core of the bill, which is around 1,500 pages long, is a “cap and trade” program designed to achieve the emissions reductions by industry.

Under the plan, the government would issue a declining number of pollution permits to companies, which could sell those permits to each other as needed.

“The federal government will be joining California in the effort to combat global warming and the framework for doing it is one that is very similar to the one that California has adopted,” said that state’s top climate official, Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols.

California is recognized as having the most aggressive plan to fight global warming in the United States.

Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Will Dunham