Report: Boxer ‘Sympathetic to’ Backers of More Climate Money for Transit

As Senator Barbara Boxer works on her upcoming climate change bill, the Senate environment committee chairman is "definitely looking at" a plan to give green transport 10 percent of the revenue generated from carbon emissions caps, according to a new report from BNA's Transportation Watch.

barbaraboxer_2.jpgSenate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: Politics Now)
Boxer told BNA last week that she is "very sympathetic" to Sen. Tom Carper's (D-DE) push for a 10-percent climate set-aside for transit and other sustainable modes.

"We're definitely looking at" Carper's legislation, Boxer is quoted as saying. "I definitely fall into that camp that thinks we need to do more."

Carper told Streetsblog Capitol Hill last month that Boxer "fully understands" the need to tackle transportation emissions more directly than the climate change bill passed by the House in June, which sent 1 percent of its revenue to transit.

Boxer's climate measure is currently expected to come before the environment panel ahead of a September 28 deadline set by Democratic leaders. If the 10-percent bill -- also known as "CLEAN TEA" -- is not included in the bill, Carper said he plans to offer it as an amendment during committee debate.

That move could end up putting pressure on the six committee Democrats who have yet to sign on as sponsors of Carper's bill: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Tom Udall (NM), Max Baucus (MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT, but caucuses as a Democrat), and Boxer herself.

Even if Boxer opts for middle ground between the 10 percent level of "CLEAN TEA" and the House's 1 percent, as she did to a certain extent in her 2008 climate legislation, rural-state senators are likely to mount dogged opposition.

Four rural Democrats called yesterday for the entire bill to be shelved, and a transportation field hearing held Monday by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) saw the South Dakota DOT secretary testify that in a rural state such as his, "there is only so much we can do" to promote transit.

The DOT official, Darin Bergquist, added that his state should work towards limiting emissions outside of the transport sector:

[Requiring states to limit transport emissions] may be viable ... in metropolitan areas, but due to our low population density, great distances, and harsh winters, they are not practical ... for rural states like ours. We believe that the proper, national interest approach is to ensure that any such statute would not force, or allow an agency to force a state like ours to undertake unrealistic efforts to reduce transportation-related GHG emissions. We generate very little GHG from transportation compared to other states and we will do our part to remove GHG emissions using modern, no-till agricultural practices.