Key Democrats reached a deal on Tuesday that its supporters hope will lead to passage of the biggest environmental bill in decades, one aimed at slowing the gradual, destructive heating of the planet.
Farm-state Democrats won concessions that will delay the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from drafting regulations that could hamper the ethanol industry and will hand the Agriculture Department oversight of potentially lucrative projects to reduce greenhouse gases on farms.
The House of Representatives is expected to take up the legislation on Friday, the first time the chamber will vote on a bill that would impose nationwide limits on the gases blamed for global warming emitted from power plants, factories and automobiles.
The breakthrough came hours after US President Barack Obama called on the House to pass the legislation and a new EPA analysis showed that it would raise household energy costs on average only an extra US$80 to $111 a year.
“It is legislation that will finally spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet,” Obama said. “And that is why I urge members of the House to come together and pass it.”
The deal also concludes weeks of closed-door negotiations between the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California, and farm-state Democrats, led by Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota who expressed concern in recent weeks that there was not enough in the bill to alleviate the costs for farmers and said they would vote against it.
Peterson said Tuesday the agreement secured his vote.
“We have reached an agreement that works for agriculture and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” he said.
The Obama administration and Congress are under pressure to pass climate and energy legislation prior to a gathering in Denmark, in December. The US will sit down with other countries to hammer out a new global agreement to curb the emissions linked to global warming.
Peterson and Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced the agreement late on Tuesday. The deal will bar the EPA for five years from including the conversion of forests to crop land when it calculates how ethanol production will contribute to global warming. During that time, the agency will have to conduct a study.
The agreement also includes a promise from Waxman that the US Department of Agriculture, not the EPA, would oversee projects to reduce emissions on farms.