This week Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released a discussion draft of their “American Power Act” legislation, proposing a cap-and-trade system for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The 987 page bill aims to reduce emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. At a press conference that accompanied the release of the legislation, Senator Kerry said, “We can finally tell the world that America is ready to take back our role as the world’s clean energy leader. This is a bill for energy independence after a devastating oil spill, a bill to hold polluters accountable, a bill for billions of dollars to create the next generation of jobs, and a bill to end America’s addiction to foreign oil and protect the air our children breathe and the water they drink.”
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, who had worked with Kerry and Lieberman for months on the legislation but recently backed off to focus on immigration legislation stated, “When it comes to our nation’s policy on energy independence and pollution control, I don’t believe any American finds the status quo acceptable. Many Senators from both parties have stated that Congress should set energy and carbon policy, not the EPA. I could not agree more.”
Of particular interest to agriculture, the legislation establishes an offset credit program for domestic emission reduction. This program would be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture rather than the EPA, which most agriculture groups had fought hard to achieve. The program tracks very closely with legislation previously introduced by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that many agriculture groups, including NAWG, had worked on with Senator Stabenow’s staff. Letters of support for Senator Stabenow’s bill were submitted by NAWG, the National Corn Growers Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and others.
However, many details of the complex legislation are still being analyzed and may not be fully known until analysis is completed by the Environmental Protection Agency, USDA, the Congressional Budget Office and others. This may take weeks.
It is unclear at this time when or if the Senate may take action on the legislation. Initial indications from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office signaled that the Senate may take up some form of energy or carbon control legislation in June or July.
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