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Boxer hints carbon tax could be part of larger budget deal
July 31, 2012

Posted by Matt Dempsey

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Boxer hints carbon tax could be part of larger budget deal

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012  

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A carbon tax could be part of a larger deal on tax and budget, two Senate Democrats who support action on climate change said today.


"I think if it's part of a larger package, we could look at it," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), when asked whether a carbon tax could eventually be passed as part of a "tax swap," which would combine a new levy on emissions with a mechanism to return money to consumers.

The idea has enjoyed a limited resurgence in the past few weeks, with Republicans including former Rep. Bob Inglis (S.C.) and former Reagan administration Secretary of State George Shultz championing it. Some within the policy community have suggested offsetting the tax with a rollback of corporate taxes, but Boxer appeared to indicate she would not support that idea.


"What I want to make sure is the middle class gets the breaks in the interim while we move to clean energy," she said.


Boxer leads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will hold a hearing tomorrow on the science of climate change -- its first such hearing in more than three years. The California senator said she had always planned to return to the issue as soon as she completed work on a transportation bill.


Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said she probably will not reintroduce a bill this Congress to cap carbon dioxide emissions and refund the money to consumers via dividend checks -- an idea that Inglis has said has merit.


"It's all about timing," she said.


But Cantwell said there has been talk about carbon policy in the context of a deal on the budget.


"I think there's a lot of discussion behind the scenes on both sides about deficit reduction and how to move forward on streamlined policies on all sorts of energy issues," she said. "So I think it will be good for the debate."


But Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on Boxer's committee, said he envisions a very different kind of carbon legislation that would strip U.S. EPA of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

 "It's an easy fix," he said. "I believe Republicans will have control of the Senate and [Mitt Romney will] defeat Obama. If that happens, it's an easy fix because it's a legislative fix."

Reporter Jeremy P. Jacobs contributed.



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