Lead role for USDA in climate bill

Oct 30, 2009
by DTN
Lead role for USDA in climate bill

The discussion draft of a climate-change bill agriculture and forestry title being developed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow would order the U.S. agriculture secretary and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator to establish a program to create credits for carbon emission reductions, and like the Houseapproved climate-change bill, would make USDA the lead agency in key aspects of the program, according to a copy of the draft obtained by National Journal’s Congress Daily.

In the draft, Stabenow, D-MI, calls for the EPA administrator and the agriculture secretary to “establish a program to govern the creation of credits from emission reductions from uncapped domestic sources and sinks” within one year of enactment of the bill. The draft also calls on EPA and USDA to jointly protect the integrity of the program, prioritize rulemaking for activities “that present the fewest technical challenges and greatest certainty of net atmospheric benefits,” and make sure that requirements between the two agencies are consistent.

The draft calls for the EPA administrator, in consultation with the agriculture secretary, to establish a registry for use in recording approved credits. But it also says USDA will “administer as the lead agency” the jobs of creating a list of eligible methodologies that can be used to reduce emissions, approving petitions and verifying emission reductions under practices going back to Jan. 1, 2001.

The draft also says USDA and EPA will jointly establish requirements for verification of the quantity of greenhouse gas emission reductions resulting from an offset project and that the EPA administrator, in consultation with the USDA secretary, will issue the offset credits and assign a unique serial number to each credit.

The draft also contains other proposals of interest to agriculture. It says that nothing in the bill would authorize the EPA administrator to put into effect any additional regulatory standards for emission reductions from any project, including “all forms of methane capture.”

Stabenow’s bill also says “lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts and bioenergy are significantly lower than the emissions associated with the production and use of fossils.” Environmentalists and their allies in Congress are certain to challenge that statement.

Stabenow aides declined to comment on the draft other than to say that the senator was working on the draft and expects there to be more intense discussions over the coming weeks.

Stabenow’s draft could be included in the cap-andtrade bill that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D- MA, and Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, unveiled Oct. 23. — DTN