(AP) — Key Democrats reached a deal 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 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 President Barack Obama at a news conference 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 $80 to $111 a year.
The deal also concludes weeks of closed-door negotiations between the bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, and farm-state Democrats, led by Rep. 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 an international gathering slated for Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. The U.S. will sit down with other nations to hammer out a new international agreement to curb the emissions linked to global warming.
Peterson and Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced the agreement late 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 Agriculture Department, not EPA, will oversee projects that will reduce greenhouse emissions on farms.
Source: Associated Press