The Climate Leadership Council is backed by industry and promotes a climate liability waiverA carbon dividends plan supported by the oil industry backed off a plan to exempt fossil fuel companies from liability lawsuits. Photo credit: CLC

By Karen Savage

The Climate Leadership Council (CLC) has dropped a provision from its carbon dividends plan that would have protected the fossil fuel industry from climate liability suits.

The CLC’s Baker-Schultz Carbon Dividend Plan, which proposes taxing carbon emitters and returning the proceeds to the American public, initially said that their plan “would also make possible a historic emissions provision stipulating that no party should be liable for damages from past emissions that were legal at the time” and called for a rollback of most emissions regulations.

While regulatory rollbacks are still on the table, the liability waiver has been eliminated from the CLC’s website. 

But the CLC appears to be less than enthusiastic about the update. 

In an interview with C-SPAN on Thursday, Ted Halstead, chief executive of the Climate Leadership Council, was asked by host Pedro Echevarria if the proposal “offers any shielding from oil and gas companies” from lawsuits based on climate change. 

“So the plan as we announced the details yesterday does not include that,” Halstead said, before quickly shifting the conversation to the plan’s widespread support by both business and environmental groups. 

Halstead also pushed back when a caller said the fossil fuel industry should be held accountable because it knew its products damage the climate and failed to share that information with the public.

“We need to number one, sue the oil, gas and car industries for hiding relevant research into this stuff that they knew 30 years ago,” said the caller. “Maybe we could use some of that money like we used with the tobacco companies to actually fix some of the lives by building better flood zone infrastructure, allowing solar panels use to increase renewable energy and also use it to build an electric vehicles force so we can get the carbon out of our vehicle force.” 

“I disagree with much of that,” Halstead said. “We need to solve the climate problem going forward, and I am more optimistic.” Halstead then went on to praise the plan’s emission reduction goals. 

Earlier this year, Halstead, who is also chief executive of Americans For Carbon Dividends (AFCD), an industry-backed organization founded to promote the plan, came under fire for failing to inform Congressional leaders of the provision when he testified at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. 

As of publication, AFDC had not updated the plan on its website. 

The CLC and AFCD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Halstead told Axios the goal is to introduce legislation in both chambers of Congress this year. It remains to be seen whether the immunity provision will be included.

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