Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney introduced legislation in Congress this week to tax heat-trapping air pollution from burning fossil fuels, and use the revenue to cut payroll taxes for employees and employers.
The tradeoff: The federal government would be prohibited from setting regulations on greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act for 12 years.
The proposal would set a so-called “carbon tax” of $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, increasing five percent a year. For every two years that emission cuts don’t meet a set goal, the tax would go up $3 per ton.
Most of the revenue – 70 percent – would be used to reduce payroll taxes for employees and employers.
About 10 percent would be paid to Social Security beneficiaries, and the other 20 percent would go into a carbon trust fund to create new state block grants for clean energy research and development, efficiency improvements and climate resiliency measures.
“These industries that choose to pollute our environment should bear the burden of cleaning it up,” Rooney said in a written statement. “Putting a price on carbon will level the economic playing field in the energy sector, unlock market-driven innovation, and lead to the deployment of low, zero and negative carbon technologies. It will help create millions of new jobs and slash U.S. carbon emissions dramatically, making it a powerful tool for curbing climate pollution.”
According to Rooney’s office, the legislation would cut carbon emissions by about 42 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. If the carbon tax doesn’t meet that emissions target, the tax increase might grow or the moratorium on new federal air pollution regulations could be phased out.
Tampa Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor — who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis – praised Rooney’s proposal.
“My neighbor @RepRooney is serious about climate solutions,” she tweeted on Friday. “Glad to see concrete legislation like this from a Republican Member of Congress.”
Rooney is co-sponsoring the bill with Illinois Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski. Last year, Rooney joined with Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Charlie Crist on legislation to tax carbon pollution. That effort hasn’t moved forward in Congress.