In his Feb. 7 Maine Voices column, Bill Houston makes an excellent case against approving the nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Now there is an even worse threat to the EPA: HR 861, a bill to abolish the EPA altogether.

Republicans and Democrats all agree that a certain degree of government regulation is necessary to protect the health and welfare of the American people. However, there are also non-regulatory means of maintaining the environment’s ability to support human life.

An example is the “carbon fee and dividend” legislation advocated by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which would impose a steadily increasing fee on carbon at the source. An important first step in reducing carbon pollution, carbon fee and dividend would correct the failure of the free market to account for the true costs of fossil fuels. The net effect is to even the playing field by ensuring that energy companies pay the true costs of doing business, which includes environmental and social costs.

The United States currently provides over $20 billion annually to fossil fuel companies, essentially giving them a free ride, while the clean-energy sector receives a tiny fraction of this amount and provides far more jobs than oil and gas companies.

If a climate fee and dividend bill were to pass, all subsidies could be eliminated, saving the taxpayers over $20 billion. In addition, net proceeds are returned to American households, enabling them to make the upgrades required to benefit from renewables.

Carbon fee and dividend is not a tax and will not grow government, which makes it attractive to many conservatives. This is a win-win deal that can be embraced equally by Republicans and Democrats.

Sarah Braik

Portland