Draft climate change bill puts USDA in lead on emissions
Proposal would require the Agriculture secretary and EPA administrator to develop a carbon credit program within one year of enactment.
A discussion draft of the agriculture and forestry title of the Senate's climate change bill would order the Agriculture secretary and Environmental Protection Agency administrator to establish a program to create credits for carbon emission reductions but make USDA the lead agency in key aspects of the program -- a provision similar to the House-passed bill.
The draft, developed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., calls for the EPA administrator and 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.
It 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.
It also says the EPA administrator, in consultation with the Agriculture secretary, will establish a registry to record approved credits. But it says USDA will "administer as the lead agency" the job 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.
In addition, USDA and EPA will jointly establish requirements to verify the quantity of greenhouse gas emission reductions resulting from an offset project. The EPA administrator, in consultation with the USDA secretary, will issue the offset credits and assign a unique serial number to each credit.
Stabenow's draft could be eventually injected into the revised draft cap-and-trade bill that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., unveiled late Friday.
That draft updates an earlier one by including a formula, similar to the House bill, for allocating emission credits to businesses. Kerry and Boxer also released an EPA cost analysis that said the costs of the House and Senate bills should be similar.
EPA determined the House bill would cost the average household between $80 and $111 annually. But critics contend the agency used some unrealistic criteria, including an expansion of 100 nuclear reactors in 20 years.
Republicans on Boxer's panel want a more thorough cost analysis before the markup, which might occur as early as next week. If they do not get one, they are threatening not to show up and deny the committee its necessary quorum to act. The committee holds three days of hearings this week, starting with five administration officials Tuesday.
Darren Goode contributed to this story.