What’s going on with the Senate Climate Bill?

The pace of the climate change/transportation field is so fast these days it has outpaced my ability to keep an up-to-date blog!  Since Congress has been back in session I have been reluctant to post anything new since every few hours a different version of the Senate’s Climate Bill seemed to be circulating.  I did want to put together a quick summary of some of the highlights of the new version and let you know what I’ve heard as of today.

Catching Up

Since the House passed H.R. 2454 (see: Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill) in June of this year, focus has shifted among those in the field of transportation and metropolitan planning to what the Senate will include in their version of the bill.  California Senator Barbara Boxer chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), which is responsible for taking the Senate’s first stab at marking up the Climate Bill.  Senators Boxer and Kerry released a Senate version of the bill on September 30 which EPW will take up on October 27.  This Senate version is known as S. 1733 (Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act) and includes some notable improvements from the House version — including the fact that it is only 821 pages!


What was previously Section 222 in Waxman-Markey, has now been broken into three sections in the Senate version: Section 112, 113, and 211.  These new sections appear to be a compromise between Carper’s CLEAN-TEA and the original language in Section 222 — combining some of the original Matsui language that focused on scenario analysis and modeling, and the CLEAN-TEA language that focused on specific strategies for GHG reduction and established the Fund for transportation planning and projects.

Section 112: “Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions Through Transportation Efficiency” (Part B: Mobile Sources)


  • Requires GHG reduction targets specifically for surface transportation
  • Implies states must have targets too because there is language about MPOs benchmarking their progress to state goals

Models / Methods

  • Requires the assessment of GHG reduction strategies to achieve this target
  • Standardizes emission models and methodologies
  • “may use existing models and methodologies if the models and methodologies are widely considered to reflect the best practicable modeling or methodological approach for assessing actual and projected transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions from transportation plans and projects.”


  • Every six years US DOT checks progress toward achieving target via vehicle efficiency, fuels, VMT, changes in consumer demand/use, and management of transportation systems

MPOs and RTPs

  • The RTP must demonstrate progress in stabilizing and reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and must contribute to the achievement of State targets (note: states are required to do the same to meet federal targets)
  • The targets and strategies must be integrated and consistent with RTPs and TIPs (note: states are required to be consistent with state TIPs)
  • Targets and strategies must be selected through scenario analysis, including transportation investment and management strategies that reduce GHG emissions (bill includes TDM strategies, transit infrastructure, pricing programs, bike/ped, changes to land use regulations to support infill and mixed use

Section 113: “Transportation GHG Emission Reduction Program Grants” (Part C: Transportation Emissions)

  • USDOT will administer grants to States and MPOs for developing and updating transportation GHG reduction strategies and targets.
  • Planning Grants — 5% of program grants can be distributed to MPOs for updating targets and strategies to reduce transportation GHG emissions (formula based on MPOs population compared to others).
  • Performance Grants – USDOT is to establish criteria, including:  reduction in total and per capita GHG emissions, cost-effectiveness, comparison to historical emissions, increased mobility for disadvantaged population, other innovative approaches including health and consumer fuel savings.

Section 211(c): “State Climate Change Response and Transportation Fund” (Part F – page 801)

  • Treasury establishes State Climate Change Response and Transportation Fund
  • 89% of funds can be used for State and local government programs that include transportation grant programs
  • Funds distributed to States based on formula:  per capita income of US / per capita income of State
  • States must create a “State Climate Change Response Account” to be eligible for funding