The Final Leadership Cave-in? House Democrats Reach Accord on Climate Bill After Addressing Agriculture Concerns

By: Vicki Needham         CongressNow Staff
Jun 23, 2009 8:08 PM

House Democrats forged a deal tonight on climate change legislation
after addressing concerns about the measure raised by farm-state
lawmakers. The bill is now expected on the House floor on Friday with
broad Democratic support.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Agriculture
Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) negotiated the final details of the
measure early this evening.

Peterson said tonight he would vote for the measure and expected to
have a growing number of rural-state Democrats joining him. Peterson
expects to puts the provisions sought by farm-state Members — and now
backed by Democratic leaders — in an amendment that he’ll send to the
House Rules Committee on Thursday.

Waxman and Peterson this afternoon settled the final problem on the
bill — agreeing to give the Agriculture Department instead of the
Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction over a carbon offset
program for agricultural activities.

Although EPA won’t have oversight responsibility in the bill, Peterson
said he expects the agency to play a role in making sure the offsets
are legitimate. He said he’s sending a letter to the White House to
determine what role EPA would play.

The latest version of the measure (H.R. 2454), unveiled on Monday,
also includes several other changes requested by Peterson and
Agriculture Committee members, including increasing pollution credit
allowances for rural electric cooperatives by .5 percent. Language in
the bill also ensures that “no one get more than 100 percent” of the
allowances they need.

Rural Democrats had voiced concern that some states and utilities
would receive more pollution allowances than they need, while
coal-fired plants in the Midwest could get shorted.

The measure also includes language that allows rural electric
cooperatives to use federal loans to buy into new nuclear plants and
apply that power toward the bill’s renewable electricity standard.
Additionally, the latest version no longer contains an indirect land
use provision that would have essentially cut out most corn-based
biofuels from counting toward the renewable fuel standard.

Peterson said the bill would also include a provision calling for a
study on the issue within five years. The Agriculture Department,
Energy Department or EPA could veto the results of the study.

“You guys will be happy to know we have an agreement by now,” Peterson
told reporters this evening. “We have something that I think works for
agriculture.”

“I think we will hold the votes we had and add to them with support
from those from agricultural areas,” Waxman said.

Responded Peterson: “I agree with that.”

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