A piece of legislation being introduced on Thursday seeks to force the nation's largest polluters to pay a fee for their carbon and methane emissions, proposing the revenue be used to send a monthly rebate check to American families for costs stemming from the fight against climate change.

Though the full text of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), hasn't been released yet, a Sanders aide told Raw Story some of its aims. Chief among them is a fee on carbon and methane production within the U.S., and a tariff on oil and gas imports from countries that do not charge a carbon fee. The bill aims the fee at the whole carbon energy production sector, made up of "about 3,000" different companies like Exxon and Shell, in hopes of generating about $1.2 trillion in government revenues over 10 years.

While much more simple than prior attempts to regulate emissions, the bill ropes in "the vast majority of emissions by covering carbon and methane," the aide explained. "The other thing the legislation does is provide a significant rebate program to ensure families are protected from companies being charged this fee that try to jack up their prices, that way those costs could be offset by a monthly rebate as part of the revenue."

Scientists like NASA's James Hansen say the consequences of inaction on climate change will be catastrophic, potentially causing a mass extinction on Earth that could wipe out 50 percent of all life on the planet by the century's end. In the short term, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that rising sea levels and storms of increasing intensity threaten roughly half of the nation's 313 million people.

Other revenues raised by the Sanders-Boxer bill would go toward providing incentives for renewable energy investment in the private sector, training workers to man the green energy industry's rise, making manufacturing and other industrial activities more energy efficient, paying down the deficit and helping harden U.S. infrastructure against severe weather.

"The bill would also try to put in common-sense regulations on fracking so people know what chemicals are being used and make sure that fracking operations comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act," the aide continued. "Any kind of carbon price will have some benefit for a lower carbon fuel like natural gas, so we want to make sure if the bill incentivises additional use of natural gas that it's done transparently and safely."

The last time a climate bill made it to the floor of the Senate was 2008's bipartisan Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, but it died after Republicans and the business community objected to its emissions reduction goals and complicated "cap-and-trade" scheme. Sen. Boxer co-sponsored that bill as well.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday urged Congress to "pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change." Whether Republicans in the Senate will greet the Sanders-Boxer bill as such remains to be seen.


Photo: Flickr user Senator Boxer, creative commons licensed.