After robust debate June 26, the House of Representatives passed cap and trade legislation by a narrow margin, 219 to 212. Over 40 Democrats voted with Republicans against the bill. Eight Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the 1,300-page bill, now headed to the Senate, where another close vote is expected.
The House bill passed only after lengthy negotiations between Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (For more, see House climate bill deal reached.)
Their joint efforts are likely only the first step in climate-based legislation this year with international negotiations for a new climate change treaty set to begin shortly.
A lengthy list of agriculture advocacy groups has credited Peterson with ensuring the farming community will be able to benefit from a carbon offset program and market while removing some of the more controversial aspects from play.
As it stands, the House bill exempts agriculture from greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements. It also establishes an agricultural and forestry offset program to be overseen by the U.S. Department of Aagriculture (USDA).
“The offset program run by USDA creates a new market opportunity for farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who can play an important role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States," Peterson says. "Farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners have been participating in conservation and carbon sequestration programs for many years, working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and support a thriving renewable energy industry.”
As for concerns with the legislation from biofuel manufacturers, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) said the House bill accomplished several things. Among them, according to an RFA press release:
- The definition of renewable biomass was harmonized with the 2008 farm bill language for private lands. Environmental safeguards for public lands were preserved.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is prohibited from imposing the unfair penalty of international land use change on biofuels for five years while research is conducted to determine the validity of such a theory. After that period, the USDA, the EPA and the Department of Energy must jointly decide to accept or reject the findings. Additionally, Congress will have one year following that decision to act, if it so chooses.
- Biodiesel facilities built before implementation of the 2007 energy bill will be grandfathered into the law in the same fashion as ethanol facilities of the same vintage.
“This is how sound science and good public policy can and must work together,” says Bob Dinneen, RFA president. “We believe that all fuel and energy sources should be treated equally with respect to measuring their carbon footprint. When this type of apples-to-apples comparison is made, ethanol and other renewable fuels will demonstrate remarkable benefits to our nation’s economy and energy security while helping tackle the challenges of climate change.”
Also of note, the American Farmland Trust – which urged passage of the House bill -- claims a late deal was struck in the House providing an additional $1 billion “for agricultural producers who engage in conservation and stewardship practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions but do not qualify under the offset section of the climate change bill; or who were pioneering producers who began to reduce emissions or sequester carbon with projects prior to 2001.”