CLIMATE:

House Ag chairman co-sponsors bid to block EPA regs

A trio of House lawmakers yesterday introduced a bill to block U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, marking the latest in a string of bipartisan attacks against forthcoming climate rules.

The measure from Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Missouri Reps. Ike Skelton (D) and Jo Ann Emerson (R) would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gases based on their effects on global climate change.

The bill would also advance several of the farm state lawmakers' other priorities by stopping EPA from calculating land-use changes in foreign countries for determining U.S. renewable fuels policy, and broadening the definition of renewable biomass.

"It appears the clean energy bill moving through Congress is stalled," Skelton said. "Let us set that bill aside and pass this scaled-back energy legislation."

This bill, Skelton said, "represents a responsible way to move forward on energy legislation, gets the EPA under control, provides good things for American farmers and builds upon bipartisan objectives that will help curb climate change and make our nation more energy independent."

The effort comes as EPA prepares to begin regulating greenhouse gases next month with its final tailpipe standard. That rule will trigger stationary source regulations, and the agency is expected to continue crafting greenhouse gas standards for other sectors.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The bill is the latest congressional efforts to stall EPA climate rules. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is planning to seek a vote next month on a disapproval resolution that would effectively veto EPA's determination that greenhouse gases threaten human health and welfare.

In the House, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has introduced a separate bill to strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions unless it receives explicit authority to do so by Congress.

Indirect land use, biomass

In addition to blocking climate regulations, the new bill seeks to block EPA from considering greenhouse gas emissions from international "indirect" land-use changes when implementing the renewable fuel standard, or RFS.

The 2007 energy bill expanded the RFS and increased goals for the use of ethanol and other biofuels in U.S. transportation fuels, reaching 36 billion gallons a year in 2022. The standard requires EPA to assess the "lifecycle" emissions of biofuels -- weighing the emissions from growing crops, producing fuels made from them, and distributing and using the fuels.

EPA proposed last year to measure emissions from indirect land-use changes associated with biofuels -- such as land that is deforested in other countries because of increased crop growth in the United States. The agency concluded, depending on the time frames modeled, that traditional corn ethanol could have a slightly larger emissions footprint than gasoline when land-use changes are factored in.

But those draft regulations drew the ire of biofuels advocates and farm-state lawmakers -- including Peterson and Emerson -- who maintained the agency was unfair to ethanol.

Last summer, Peterson reached an agreement with the Democratic authors of energy and climate legislation to include language to bar EPA from considering including emissions from indirect land-use changes abroad for five years (E&E Daily, June 24, 2009). But that bill has languished as climate talks have stalled in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the White House completed its review of EPA's proposal for implementing the RFS earlier this week, paving the way for the agency to finalize the rule (E&ENews PM, Feb. 2).

"I'm proud to help sponsor this bill because if Congress doesn't do something soon, the EPA is going to cram these regulations through all on their own," Peterson said in a statement yesterday.

Emerson has also sought to bar EPA from measuring emissions from indirect land-use changes as part of the overall calculation of biofuels emissions. During consideration of the EPA fiscal 2010 appropriations bill last year, Emerson introduced a failed amendment that would have blocked EPA from considering the indirect emissions (E&E Daily, June 19, 2009).

The new measure would also expand the definition of what classifies as "renewable biomass" that can be used for biofuels under the RFS.

The definition largely mirrors an amendment that Peterson negotiated to include in the House-passed energy and climate bill, although language barring the use of components of federal forests and conservation areas was notably absent in the bill introduced yesterday (Greenwire, June 25, 2009).

Peterson and Skelton voted for the House climate and energy bill (H.R. 2454); Emerson voted against it.

Click here to read the bill.

Reporter Allison Winter contributed.

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