House passes climate bill in close vote
OMAHA (DTN) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark climate change bill early Friday evening by a narrow vote of 219 to 212 with eight Republicans joining Democrats to pass the bill.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, as the bill is formally known, passed after a day of debate. Democrats characterized passing the legislation as a historic day for clean energy, independence from foreign oil and new jobs, while Republicans called the bill a massive tax on Americans that would send jobs overseas and kill industries.
The climate legislation included provisions reached in negotiations this week with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-CA, that include the creation of a carbon offset program for farmers and ranchers that would be run by USDA.
Further, agriculture is exempted from the greenhouse-gas emission requirements. Another key provision would effectively shelf the Environmental Protection Agency-proposed rule that factors in land-use changes overseas when calculating the carbon reduction of biofuels. The EPA would not be allowed to consider indirect land-use change under the bill for at least five years and any future consideration of ILUC would also require approval from USDA and the Department of Energy.
“We commend the House of Representatives for passing legislation today that would fix a flawed provision of current law that threatens the future of biofuels production in the U.S., and continues our nation’s reliance on foreign oil,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “The legislation prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from adopting rules to penalize domestic ethanol and biodiesel production for land use changes occurring in foreign countries.”
While the ag language appears strong, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-TX, said in debate that there was still a provision in the bill that could allow the EPA administrator to designate any emission as harmful to the public and thus subject to the bill’s regulatory oversight.
“As far as I can tell, that paragraph trumps everything Chairman Peterson has negotiated with Chairman Waxman,” Barton said on the House floor.
Other lawmakers credited the work done for agriculture, even if they don’t serve on the Ag Committee. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-MO, said on the House floor early in the Friday debate that he was skeptical of the bill but realized it was needed.
“I think that congressional leadership and the Administration understand the concerns of rural America, and I will keep working to ensure our point of view is more completely addressed in the final bill,” Skelton said. “Truth be told, Congress has an obligation to enact energy reform legislation this year, especially given that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working right now to create tough, costly regulations on greenhouse gases emitted from livestock, farms, factories, and utilities. Without congressional action, EPA will have free reign. That is unacceptable to me and ought to be unacceptable to every farmer and business owner in Missouri.”
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said the bill “recognizes the unique role America’s family farmers and ranchers can play when it comes to combating global climate change. The agricultural offset program, overseen by USDA, will help mitigate the increased input costs of a cap and trade program, while the early actors provision recognizes those producers who have already adopted environmentally-friendly practices.”
Given that the EPA is writing rules to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, Johnson said that “failing to pass climate change legislation is not an option.”
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-OK, who campaigned hard against the legislation, called the vote a “disgrace to the American people.” Lucas said the bill does nothing for rural America and will cost jobs.
“The Democratic majority jammed a bill through the House that will cause higher energy costs, higher food prices, lost jobs, and lost opportunities. Now, those of us who are charged with working for and protecting our constituents in rural America must work even harder to make sure this bill does not become law,” Lucas said.
Jerry Kozak, president of the National Milk Producers Federation, said passage of the bill creates expectations that the Senate must also develop similar legislation.
“We need to ensure that agricultural enterprises are shielded from any adverse impacts, and even more, our lawmakers must work to establish opportunities for farmers to participate in selling and trading greenhouse gas credits,” Kozak said. “Again, we’re a long way from knowing how this will play out in either the Senate or the inevitable conference process, but NMPF will continue to be vigilant so that the concerns of dairy farmers are recognized in the legislative process.”
The bill now goes to the Senate where it will likely face further changes.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, whose committee will oversee climate legislation in the Senate, issued a statement: “Congratulations to Congressional leaders for passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act. There are very few bills that we pass that trigger so many benefits for the American people — energy efficiency, new jobs, cleaner air, healthier families, and energy independence. This bill gives us the momentum we need in the Senate, and signals that when we promised change for the better in America, we meant it.”
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In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the Agriculture Department this week announced that plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing.