Policy News: Climate bill passes House

Here’s an update on the Waxman-Markey climate bill, from the latest edition of the ESA Policy News by ESA’s Policy Analyst Piper Corp. Read more at the Policy News Page. On June 26, the House voted 219-212 in favor of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy package. The bill’s success came after significant negations between Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson (D-MN). Peterson had previously vowed to vote against the measure, threatening to bring up to 50 farm state lawmakers with him, if his concerns were not addressed. For more information, see the June 5 Policy News. In exchange for his support, Peterson was allowed to add an amendment to the existing package. The amendment made several notable changes to the legislation, including language to: –  Place the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)–rather than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)– in charge of the offset program that provides incentive for farmers and other landowners to conduct environmentally friendly projects. –  Place a moratorium of at least six years on any EPA regulations that would include “indirect” greenhouse gas emissions when calculating biofuels’ carbon footprint. These indirect emissions-emissions that result from changes in land-use driven by the production of biofuels-could only be included if USDA and EPA, following additional research by the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the emissions could be accurately measured. –  Expand the definition of “renewable biomass” acceptable under the bill’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) so that it mirrors the specifications in the 2008 farm bill. The Waxman-Markey bill banned the use of materials from “old growth or mature forest stands”; the Peterson amendment will remove the language protecting mature forest stands, replacing it with “late successional forest stands.” Much of the original language remains intact, however, including restrictions on using biomass-including slash and thinnings-from federal forests and lands. The Senate is set to begin work on their version of the bill this...

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ESA Policy News Update

My sincere apologies for this week’s EcoTone drought… this blogger was away on vacation. To re-whet your appetite, here are highlights from the latest Policy News Update from ESA’s policy analyst, Piper Corp. House Climate Bill: On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a vote of 33 to 25.  The committee approved a number of amendments, including ones establishing a federal “clean energy” bank, which would provide financial assistance for clean energy projects, and a “cash for clunkers” program, which would provide consumers with up to $4,500 toward replacing gas-guzzling cars with more efficient models. The committee also voted down Republican-backed amendments to add nuclear and hydroelectric power to the renewable electricity standard, as well as ones to provide a means for terminating the cap-and-trade program in the event of increased job loss or energy prices. Among the things yet to be decided are acceptable sources of biomass for renewable energy mandates (see the March 5 Policy News), emissions allocations for refineries, and repercussions for violations in gas, power and carbon markets. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he expects a possible floor debate in late June or early July, following another month of fast-paced committee action. Senate Energy Bill: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) appears to have gathered the twelve votes necessary to move forward with a renewable energy standard (RES) measure in the chamber’s massive energy bill. The current RES would require utilities to supply 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, allowing companies to cover roughly a fourth of the target with efficiency offsets. Committee members are still debating the specifics, however, and could mark up as many as 49 amendments next month. Fisheries: The Obama administration’s 2010 budget request includes $18.6 million for “catch-share” programs, new fisheries management programs that take a cap-and-trade-style approach to regulating catches. Under the traditional system, managers set a limit to the fishery’s total catch, and boats compete to bring in as many fish as possible before the fishery hits its limit. The resulting “race for fish” is, according to several studies, a major contributor to fishery decline and collapse. Catch-share programs are designed to incentivize more sustainable practices by guaranteeing all fishers a fixed number of shares from the total catch, a limit that is set annually by scientists. These shares, which can be bought and sold, increase in value when the fish populations increase, increasing the financial benefit of preserving the long-term health of the fishery. Recent studies have shown that catch-share programs can cut the collapse rate for fisheries in...

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