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Grassley Warns of Costs of Climate Change Legislation

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) warned Tuesday that Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) pending climate change bill should realistically reflect the economic costs of reducing carbon emissions and not be centered on “purported environmental benefits.”Grassley’s remarks came during the opening of the Finance Committee’s first climate change hearing since the Environment and Public Works Committee passed its version of an ambitious climate change bill last week. The Finance Committee is expected to complete its bill in the next several months, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will eventually combine the two panels’ measures and several others into one package for consideration next year.“This isn’t the Environment Committee so this isn’t the place for a detailed examination of the purported environmental benefits of any climate change proposal, although that is an important part of the equation,” Grassley said. “This committee’s expertise is in the costs and economic impacts of new taxes. It therefore has the relevant expertise for evaluating the costs associated with climate change legislation.”“An honest cost-benefit assessment requires that we first stop trying to sell this policy as if it will have no cost for Americans and accept the basic economic principle that there is no such thing as a free lunch,” he added.In his opening statement, Baucus, who will play a central role in moving climate change legislation next year, acknowledged that his committee’s version of the bill will need to balance environmental and economic concerns.“I am committed to legislation that will protect our land and those whose livelihood depends on it,” Baucus said.Indeed, Baucus warned that “while we must always be mindful of the cost of legislation, that’s particularly true in today’s economy. Our unemployment rate remains far too high. And we must be diligent to create jobs, including in the energy sector.”The opening statements in Tuesday’s hearing stand in stark contrast to those made by members of EPW during last week’s markup of Chairman Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) bill. EPW members focused on the need for aggressive actions to control carbon emissions and the need to act now. Boxer’s measure cleared the committee on partisan 11-1 vote in the face of a GOP boycott of the markup. Baucus was the only Democrat to oppose her bill.A Finance Committee aide acknowledged the difference in tone, noting that on the Finance panel, “it’s all about jobs.”

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