US chems, farmers welcome Senate delay on climate bill

19 November 2009 19:07  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Chemical-sector and farming officials on Thursday welcomed the US Senate's decision to postpone climate-change legislation to next year, adding that separate climate action by the White House also should be delayed.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said the decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada) to delay consideration of climate-change legislation to the next session of Congress “offers a great opportunity for lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and re-assess the need for this legislation”.

Stallman and the agriculture federation he heads have lobbied hard against the cap-and-trade emissions bills approved by the House and still pending in the Senate.

“These cap-and-trade provisions would do little more than downsize American agriculture and our ability to produce food in this nation,” Stallman said.

He said the bills, which would mandate cuts in US industrial, agricultural and household emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) to about 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, would impose higher energy and food costs on consumers.

“Farmers and ranchers would see higher fuel, fertilizer and energy costs,” Stallman added.

After meeting with other Democrat leaders in the Senate on prospects for the controversial climate bill, Reid said in a statement that he was looking forward “to more productive meetings to move this effort forward in the near future”.

That was taken to mean that consideration of the Senate climate change bill, S-1773, is being pushed back to the second session of this 111th Congress, which begins in January. 

Although the bill was approved by one Senate panel earlier this month, as many as three other committees have jurisdiction and have yet to schedule hearings. With only a few weeks left in the Senate legislative calendar for this year, it was widely expected that the measure would have to be postponed to 2010.

Reid and other Democratic leaders in Congress had been under pressure to complete work on a federal climate-change mandate in time for the 7 December UN climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen. However, that deadline has long been considered unrealistic, given the many other key bills pending in the House and Senate.

However, American Chemistry Council (ACC) president Cal Dooley warned on Thursday that the congressional delay raises the prospect that the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may move forward with its proposed rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions before Congress can enact climate legislation.

While he welcomed the Senate delay because the “extra time can allow fresh ideas to enter the debate”, Dooley cautioned that “Congress also runs the very real risk of letting the EPA’s regulatory deadlines overtake the legislative process”.

The EPA has proposed regulations that would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by US electric utilities, refineries and other major manufacturing and production facilities - known as “stationary sources” under the agency's terminology. 

The agency held two hearings this week on the proposed rulemaking and will accept public comment until the end of this year but plans to put the greenhouse gases emissions rule in force by the second quarter next year.

“EPA action before Congress has had adequate time to develop a sound greenhouse gas reduction policy is the worst-case scenario,” Dooley said.

“As early as March, EPA could issue rules that would lead to regulation of GHG emissions at stationary sources,” Dooley added.  “This would stop smart investment in American manufacturing dead in its tracks.”

Dooley urged that Congress should adopt as its top priority action “to stop EPA from moving forward with a regulatory train wreck”.

“The best action here is for Congress to give EPA a ‘time out’ from proceeding with its rulemaking affecting stationary sources and have time to pass its own effective emissions reduction policies,” he said.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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