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Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Congress is nearing passage of legislation that phases down a powerful planet-warming gas used in air conditioning and refrigeration, while also extending tax credits for renewable power and carbon capture projects.

Driving the news: Those provisions are part of the bipartisan year-end spending and COVID-19 relief deal moving through Capitol Hill this week, after a compromise on a $900 billion package was finally reached Sunday night.

Why it matters: Phasing down use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a highly potent greenhouse gas, is a big and rare bipartisan agreement on global warming.

  • It sets up the U.S. contribution to a major 2016 global deal to cut HFCs under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, even though the U.S. has not formally ratified the amendment.
  • The bill also aims to improve Energy Department R&D and demonstration programs for a suite of clean energy technologies, authorizing $35.2 billion over a decade, per E&E News.

How it works: The Montreal Protocol successfully curbed the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, but one side effect was to boost deployment of HFCs.

  • The New York Times notes that the legislation on Capitol Hill "effectively puts the United States in compliance with the terms of the [2016] deal."
  • It "requires companies to phase down production and consumption of HFCs to about 15 percent of 2012 levels by 2036," the Times reports.

Where it stands: The various pieces of the energy tax section, per sources familiar with the text and published reports, include ...

  • A two-year extension of the investment tax credit for solar projects before phasing down.
  • Making projects that transform wasted heat into electricity at industrial plants eligible for investment tax credit.
  • A one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind projects that was about to expire, as well as incentives for offshore wind through 2025.
  • A two-year extension of credits for carbon sequestration projects.

What they're saying: "The agreement includes sweeping clean energy reforms, R&D enhancements, efficiency incentives, and extends clean energy tax credits to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the clean economy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

  • "The package also phases out superpollutant HFCs, positioning the U.S. to lead the world in avoiding up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global warming," they said.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.