Pelosi Confers With Rangel and Peterson on Climate Change Bill

June 2, 2009 07:00 PM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Farm groups send letter to House leaders detailing ag sector priorities

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday met with the chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Agriculture panels to discuss the climate change legislation which she wants acted on by the end of this year. Pelosi during a news event said she met Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Charley Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman Ways and Means Committee.

Peterson last month announced opposition to the climate measure with a spirited and lengthy tirade against several recent developments, including what he termed mistrust of federal regulators to treat corn-based ethanol on an equal footing.

Pelosi said did not provide deadlines to the chairmen for marking up the legislation, but acknowledged she is “optimistic that we will be able to move forward in a timely fashion so that legislation will pass the House and Senate” before December, when international negotiators head to Copenhagen regarding a new global climate change agreement.

Timeline: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) previously said he would like to see the bill on the floor in late June or early July, leaving time to deal with health care reform before the August recess. Rangel wants to have a markup in his committee, but only after health care legislation is finished.

Peterson said Pelosi made clear her desire to see the energy bill move quickly, and he detailed his concerns about the bill, adding that he had a meeting planned with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Tuesday.

“They seem like they want to work with us,” Peterson said. “We’ll talk and we’ll see.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee via a 33-25 vote on May 21 approved the climate and energy package.

The energy committee released an updated summary of the bill reflecting changes made during the weeklong markup in May. Key provisions in the bill:

-- Require electric utilities to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.

-- Invest in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).

-- Mandate new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry.

-- Reduce carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17 percent by 2020 and over 80 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Complementary measures in the legislation, such as investments in preventing tropical deforestation, will achieve significant additional reductions in carbon emissions.

-- Protect consumers from energy price increases. According to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, the reductions in carbon pollution required by the legislation will cost American families "less than a postage stamp per day."

Pelosi said the Agriculture and Ways and Means panels are the “two main committees” that will consider the legislation, but another six committees have jurisdiction over sections of the bill (HR 2454): Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, Education and Labor, Science and Technology, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Natural Resources.

Ways and Means will focus on language that raises and distributes revenue, including how money raised by auctioning emissions allowances could be used to protect low- and middle-income consumers, and provisions to protect trade-sensitive industries.

The Agriculture Committee will likely focus on determining how some of the carbon market financial instruments that would be established by the legislation would be overseen, possibly by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is under the committee's jurisdiction. Ag panel members also want to ensure the agriculture sector gains access to carbon offset projects. (See the next item on what some farm groups want via the legislation.)

Farm groups want unlimited ag offsets via climate change bill. Farm groups on Tuesday called for unlimited emissions offsets generated from agriculture and forestry be part of energy and climate change legislation. The request came via a letter from the National Farmers Union and five other organizations to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Background: As approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 21, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454) would create a national emissions cap-and-trade system, but would allow sources to buy limited offsets instead of cutting actual greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would allow sources to offset up to 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, half of which would be required to be come from domestic sources.

Examples of activities that could generate offsets via the agriculture sector could include planting trees, preserving existing forests, no-till farming to prevent soil erosion, and methane generation using animal wastes.

The farm coalition called for USDA and not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be given the lead role in administering agricultural offsets. Under the Waxman-Markey bill, EPA would be in charge of the offsets.

Groups signing the letter to Pelosi and Hoyer were the National Farmers Union, American Farmland Trust, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Milk Producers Federation, and the International Biochar Initiative.

The organizations detailed several priorities for consideration, including:

-- USDA being granted control and administration of the agricultural and forestry offset program;

-- “Early actors” being fully recognized;

-- No artificial caps placed on domestic offsets;

-- Offset credits for carbon sequestration rates based upon science;

-- Producers being permitted to stack environmental benefit credits;

-- Establishment of a static baseline; and

-- Limiting leakage analysis to the confines of the United States.

Comments: The initial signs of a compromise confronting some but certainly not all of Peterson's and the farm groups' demands are coming into focus. While Peterson said he would have enough votes with him to defeat the climate change bill if agriculture doesn't get its priorities dealt with, congressional sources see an eventual give on some of the ag sector initiatives.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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