Policy News: Climate bill passes House

policy-news-logo_sHere’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 week.