House appropriators approved a $10.6 billion spending bill for U.S. EPA last night, tucking in several amendments aimed at insulating agricultural interests from the reach of federal climate regulations.
The House Appropriations Committee cleared the fiscal 2010 Interior and Environment spending bill after adding provisions to block EPA regulations requiring factory farms to report their greenhouse gas emissions and exempt livestock operations from possible carbon regulations.
The committee voted 31-27 to adopt an amendment that would prevent funding from this or any other bill to go toward a rule that requires mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases from manure management systems at large factory farms.
Agriculture "is scared to death," of the regulation, said the amendment's sponsor, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa). "They don't know what it's going to cost or the impact it's going to have on their livelihood."
EPA proposed a rule in March that would establish a national reporting system for industries to document their greenhouse gas emissions. The reporting rule would affect about 13,000 facilities nationwide, including large factory farms. The public comment on the rule ended earlier this month and EPA is expected to take final action in October.
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, dismissed Latham's concerns, saying that the EPA rule would require about 85 to 95 of the largest confined feeding operations in the nation to report their methane emissions.
"A facility of that magnitude and size can well afford to at least report in what the level of methane is," Dicks said. "I think this is something we need to know. Methane is one of the most important gases that we have to deal with if we're going to deal with this issue."
The committee also approved an amendment that would prevent the government from requiring livestock producers to obtain permits under the Clean Air Act.
Some agriculture groups and farm-state lawmakers are concerned that if EPA moves to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA could impose fees on livestock operations for the methane emissions that result from the flatulence and burps from their cows or pigs (E&E Daily, March 31). EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly said the agency has no intention to pursue such regulations.
But the amendment would prohibit EPA from requiring Clean Air Act permits for carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases emitted by livestock. The provision, introduced by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), was approved by voice vote.
Dicks offered his support for the amendment but noted that he would work with Tiahrt to ensure that the measure would remain narrowly focused and would not affect other Clean Air Act provisions.
The committee also adopted by voice vote an amendment from Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) that would require President Obama to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations committees detailing all the federal agencies' obligations and expenditures that pertain to climate change in fiscal 2008, fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010.
The legislation could move to the House floor as early as next week, according to a committee aide.
Biofuels emissions amendment narrowly fails
The committee rejected, 29-30, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's (R-Mo.) amendment that would have blocked EPA from measuring "indirect" emissions from land-use changes when calculating the carbon footprint of biofuels.
Emerson and many other farm state lawmakers -- most notably Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) -- oppose the way EPA is determining biofuels' emissions in draft rules to implement the national renewable fuels standard that was expanded in a 2007 law (E&ENews PM, June 17).
The revised RFS requires that biofuels, to varying degrees, have fewer lifecycle greenhouse emissions than gasoline and diesel fuels. The agency in May issued draft rules that include calculation of emissions from land-use changes that are ripple effects of biofuels production.
An example of these emissions would be the release of carbon when rainforests are cleared in other countries to grow crops for food to compensate for increased use of U.S. farmland to grow fuels feedstocks.
Emerson's amendment would have prevented funds in the fiscal 2010 bill from being used to promulgate rules that measure indirect emissions from land-use changes as part of the overall calculation of biofuels emissions.
The committee also rejected an amendment from Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) that would have increased funding for an EPA program to slash emissions from old diesel engines.
The amendment, defeated by a 23-36 vote, would have increased fiscal 2010 funding from $60 million to $75 million for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which was enacted as part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act with the purpose of spending $1 billion over five years to retrofit heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines.
Water project amendment
The committee left intact the president's request for a massive spending boost for water infrastructure projects but added an amendment to ensure project workers are paid prevailing wages.
The amendment from Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jim Moran (D-Va.), would impose Davis-Bacon wage requirements on all construction projects that use money from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The provision passed by a voice vote.
The language could prove a stumbling block when the bill reaches the House floor, as similar amendments have repeatedly caused controversy in both chambers.
While water infrastructure funding draws bipartisan support, House lawmakers squabbled over the Davis-Bacon wage requirements contained in a water projects bill that passed in March, with Democrats generally in favor of the wage measure and Republicans generally opposed.
$84M boost for EPA
The House panel retained the overall funding levels approved for EPA last week by the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill would fund the agency at $10.6 billion -- $84 million beyond Obama's recommendation and nearly $3 billion more than its current funding level of $7.6 billion (Greenwire, June 10).
The bill includes $420 million for climate change adaptation and scientific efforts. That amount is $24 million above Obama's budget and $189 million above the fiscal 2009 level.
Water projects would get $3.9 billion under the committee's bill, more than double the fiscal 2009 funding levels. The bill would divide the money among the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and State and Tribal Assistance Grants.
Great water bodies would receive $667 million under the measure, $89 million above the president's request and a $544 million increase from last year. Much of that money would go to the Great Lakes, which is tapped to receive $475 million for a major restoration initiative.
EPA's Superfund program would see $1.3 billion under the bill, $2 million less than Obama's request but a $22 million boost from last year's level.
Reporter Allison Winter contributed.