FarmPolicy

September 23, 2019

Climate Issues; EPA Pesticide Issue; Biofuels; and Trade

Climate Issues- EPA Regulation: Executive and Legislative Branch Dialogue in Letters

Recall that on Friday, Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin reported at the Post Carbon Blog that, “Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and several other coal-state Democrats sent a bluntly worded letter to Environment Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson Friday night challenging the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants and other industrial sources.

“The Rockefeller letter–which was also signed by Democratic senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Pat Casey (Pa.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Carl Levin (Mich.), and Max Baucus (Mont.)–poses a serious challenge for the Obama administration. While the administration is still pushing for Congress to pass a climate bill this year, it has not ruled out controlling greenhouse gases through regulation.

In their letter, the Democratic senators do not object to the EPA regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light-trucks, but they do question the agency’s power to do anything else under the Clean Air Act. The letter asks Jackson clarify the EPA’s timetable and suspend any regulations for coal-fired utilities and other industrial facilities until Congress acts on climate and energy legislation.”

Friday’s Post Carbon update added that, “Rockefeller announced Friday he is drafting legislation that would block the EPA from moving ahead, but he’ll have to wait in line–Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has already introduced a resolution that would do just that. Murkowski and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be discussing that initiative in a conference call scheduled for Thursday.”

In a news release issued yesterday regarding Friday’s letter from Senate Democrats to the EPA, GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski noted that, “I welcome my colleagues’ attention to this issue, and am encouraged that they share the concerns of the 41 Democratic and Republican senators who have introduced a disapproval resolution (S.J.Res.26) to halt EPA’s actions. This bipartisan measure was made necessary by the agency’s decision to finalize the endangerment finding without addressing a number of problems related to it…I commend my colleagues for becoming more engaged in this important issue and hope they will show their commitment by signing on as co-sponsors of the disapproval resolution. It’s time to take the threat of EPA’s command-and-control regulations off the table.”

John M. Broder reported in today’s New York Times that, “Facing wide criticism over their recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public welfare, top Environmental Protection Agency officials said Monday that any regulation of such gases would be phased in gradually and would not impose expensive new rules on most American businesses.

“The E.P.A.’s administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, wrote in a letter to eight coal-state Democrats [letter, related news release] who have sought a moratorium on regulation that only the biggest sources of greenhouse gases would be subjected to limits before 2013. Smaller ones would not be regulated before 2016, she said.

“‘I share your goals of ensuring economic recovery at this critical time and of addressing greenhouse gas emissions in sensible ways that are consistent with the call for comprehensive energy and climate legislation,’ Ms. Jackson wrote.”

Lisa Lerer reported yesterday at Politico that, “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson reassured Democrats that the agency would take a cautious approach to regulating greenhouse gases, in a letter sent to coal state representatives on Monday.”

The article added that, “Jackson’s quick response is an attempt to keep Democrats from voting to veto the agency plan.

“In her letter, Jackson said that no industrial facilities will be required to curb greenhouse gas emissions in this year. The agency would phase-in permit requirements starting in 2011. The smallest sources would not be subjected to permitting for emissions until 2016, she wrote.”

Ms. Lerer noted that, “But Jackson’s statement didn’t go far enough for some critics.

“‘While the delay in implementation is a small forced step in the right direction, the Clean Air Act continues to be the wrong tool for the job,’ Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski said. ‘And [the] EPA’s timeline continues to create significant and ongoing uncertainty for a business community.’”

Ian Talley and Stephen Power
reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday the agency would delay subjecting large greenhouse-gas emitters such as power plants and crude-oil refiners to new regulations until 2011, and would raise the threshold for using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

After an outcry from state regulators and members of Congress, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency would also limit regulations for the first half of 2011 to emitters already required to apply for new construction and modification permits under the Clean Air Act.

“Between 2011 and 2013, ‘I expect the threshold for permitting will be substantially higher than the 25,000-ton limit that EPA originally proposed,’ Ms. Jackson told lawmakers in a letter.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Jay Rockefeller responded to Administrator Jackson’s EPA letter yesterday, noting in a news release that, “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation in to the future – this is good progress but I am concerned it may not go far enough.

“I believe we need to set in stone through legislation enough time for Congress to consider a comprehensive energy bill.”

Sen. Rockefeller added that, “As I evaluate the EPA’s letter, I remain committed to presenting legislation that would provide Congress the space it needs to craft a workable policy that will protect jobs and stimulate the economy.”

Climate Issues- EPA Regulation: Executive and Legislative Branch Dialogue in Hearings

Amy Harder reported yesterday at the National Journal Online that, “Republican lawmakers will likely grill EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on her plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions when she testifies about the agency’s FY2011 budget proposal at two hearings this week. And lawmakers will have their first chance to ask questions about the administration’s commitment to the Copenhagen Accord when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies about her department’s budget, which includes hundreds of millions of dollars for global climate and energy policy.”

Robin Bravender of Greenwire reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will defend the White House’s request to increase funds for climate regulations when she testifies before House and Senate panels this week.

Jackson will testify [today] before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and will appear Wednesday at the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss President Obama’s $10 billion budget request for EPA.

“The fiscal 2011 request would cut the agency’s total funding by about $300 million from 2010 levels while allotting $56 million — including $43 million in new funding — for regulatory programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions.”

Yesterday’s article noted that, “GOP lawmakers — some of whom have been vocal critics of the Obama administration’s climate policies — are likely to use this week’s budget hearings to blast the proposed spending levels.

“‘When the president released his EPA budget proposal, he proved that jobs aren’t really his top priority,’ Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Friday in a statement. Barrasso, ranking member of the EPW Oversight Subcommittee, has been one of the Senate’s leading critics of EPA climate rules.”

The Greenwire article indicated that, “Last year, a host of lawmakers sought to use the EPA budget as a vehicle to handcuff the agency’s ability to implement new climate rules. And as EPA prepares to roll out its first climate rules next month, lawmakers are expected to pursue similar tactics.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) — who has introduced a bill to strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — said earlier this month that he will fight during the appropriations process to remove any funding that would go toward curbing the heat-trapping emissions.

“But Jackson and Democratic lawmakers are expected to staunchly defend the draft budget.”

Climate Issues- EPA Regulation: Judicial Perspectives

The “Washington Insider” section of DTN stated yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “To nobody’s surprise, a large number of associations and state groups have joined to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health — the basis for its proposed GHG regulations. The groups are filing petitions for federal court reviews.

“EPA’s opponents include the states of Alabama, Texas and Virginia, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others who filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A coalition of coal-mining companies and beef producers also challenged the finding in a petition to the D.C. Circuit last December. Sixteen states moved to intervene in support of EPA in that case.”

With respect to the action by Texas, an update posted yesterday at the Dallas Blog stated that, “Even Gov. Rick Perry‘s chief opponent for reelection agreed in principle with the challenge that Perry, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples mounted this week against the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly launched campaign against greenhouse gases.

“Actually it turns out that a lot of people besides Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, plus Perry, Abbott, and Staples, worry about EPA’s foray into branches of regulation not originally contemplated by Congress in the Clean Air Act of 1970.”

The Texas Ag Commissioner was also a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams, where the court challenge to EPA regulation was discussed in greater detail. To listen to a portion of this conversation with Todd Staples and Mike Adams, just click here (MP3-5:00).

Climate Issues- EPA Regulation: Executive Branch Perspectives

Joel Kirkland of ClimateWire reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “The White House is mounting a last-ditch effort to piece together an energy and climate change bill that has enough incentives for nuclear power, natural gas and the coal industry to muster the votes needed to pass it this year.

As Democrats enter a turbulent and high-stakes political season, President Obama is striving for consensus on a path forward that can deliver substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions and satisfy concerns in the Senate about energy security. In an address to the nation’s top CEOs at a Business Roundtable meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Obama is expected to discuss his energy plans and, according to sources, roll out a proposal meant to incentivize coal-burning power plants to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg writer Alex Morales reported yesterday that, “The U.S. said it wants to reach a legally binding climate-change agreement at a summit in Mexico in December, a sign President Barack Obama hasn’t given up the fight for a global accord to limit greenhouse gases.

“The pact should cover ‘all major economies,’ and include elements from the non-binding Copenhagen Accord made in December, the State Department said in a letter released today by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC.

“With China and India resisting mandatory curbs on their emissions and legislation in the U.S. outlining domestic commitments stalled in the Senate, Obama is attempting to keep the talks alive. A two-year push for a treaty ended in December with a voluntary deal that wasn’t accepted by all of the 193 nations present.”

EPA Pesticide Issue

A statement by American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman yesterday noted that, “Farmers’ abilities to protect our food supply from pests took a big hit today because the United States Supreme Court refused to review an important case.

“The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals misfired in its ruling in the case National Cotton Council v. EPA. The Supreme Court compounded that mistake by not reviewing the case.

“All farmers know they must use chemicals properly. They also know the label on each chemical they use is the law of the land. Going through redundant bureaucratic red tape for a duplicate permit to apply a safe product is preposterous. That kind of regulatory overkill will not improve food safety or the environment.”

For additional background on the National Cotton Council v. EPA case, see this FarmPolicy.com update from April 13, 2009.

Biofuels

David Benoit reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Shares of ethanol producers rose sharply after one of the larger producers, Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc., reported a bullish fourth quarter and said industry trends looked positive for 2010… Competitors Pacific Ethanol Inc. and BioFuel Energy Corp. rose on higher-than-average volume as well. Pacific Ethanol gained 11% to $2.12, while BioFuel gained 5% to $2.92. Smaller New Generation Biofuels Holdings Inc. rose 12% to 74 cents.”

The Journal article noted that, “Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it expected the industry to buy more corn than expected to match the rising levels of production by the end of August. That came after the Environmental Protection Agency appeared to soften concerns about the harmful effects of the biofuel’s production and will allow ethanol into its mandate for increasing renewable fuels.”

Separately, Ben Pershing reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Aided by a handful of Republicans, Senate Democratic leaders on Monday kept alive a $15 billion job-creation measure and are poised to pass the measure later this week.”

A related news release issued yesterday by GOP Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa) regarding the jobs bill noted in part that, “The Senate is about to engage in a cloture vote on the Senate Democratic Leadership’s third stimulus bill. What I find surprising is that what we are about to vote on indisputably and absolutely belongs to the majority leader. That is to say we are not going to vote on a bipartisan package that I put together with Finance Committee Chairman Baucus. I was under the impression that the Senate Democratic Leadership was genuine in its desire to work on a bipartisan basis, but clearly I was mistaken. Although the Senate Democratic Leader was highly involved in the development of a bipartisan bill, he arbitrarily decided to replace it with a bill he hopes to jam through the Senate.”

Sen. Grassley added that, “Either the Democratic leaders are playing partisan politics with tax extenders, or they don’t understand the worth of the provisions to the economy, including job retention and creation. The biodiesel industry alone says 23,000 jobs are at risk due to the biodiesel tax credit being allowed to expire. Those workers are not fat cats.

“And in case anyone thinks biodiesel is something only Iowans worry about, these green jobs are in forty-four of the fifty states. There are 24 facilities in Texas. There are 15 facilities in Iowa. There are 6 facilities in Illinois and 6 in Missouri. There are 4 facilities in Washington. Ohio has 11 facilities. There are 5 facilities in Indiana. There are 3 facilities each in Mississippi and South Carolina. There are 7 facilities in Pennsylvania and 4 in Arkansas. New Jersey has 2 facilities.

“There is one facility in North Dakota. Only 6 of the 50 states do not have some biodiesel production. They are Alaska, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming. The other forty-four states have some biodiesel presence. I ask unanimous consent to put in the record an article from the Erie, Pennsylvania, newspaper, describing the struggles of a local biodiesel plant.”

Meanwhile, a news release issued yesterday by POET noted in part that, “POET Senior Vice President of Science and Technology Mark Stowers has been appointed to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) expert workgroup to help better assess the true carbon footprint of all fuel sources under the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

“Stowers is one of 30 experts from around the world appointed to the group, which will ‘assist the Board in refining and improving the land use and indirect effect analysis of transportation fuels,’ according to the CARB resolution. The group will come up with recommendations to present to CARB by Jan. 1, 2011.”

Trade

Reuters writer Jonathan Lynn reported yesterday that, “Too many gaps remain in long-running talks on a new global trade pact to bring ministers in to give a political push to the deal in the coming weeks, the head of the World Trade Organization said on Monday.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told the body’s general council its 153 members would take stock at the end of March on progress in the eight-year-old Doha round.

“But Lamy said a decision on whether a deal to open world trade could be completed this year, as called for repeatedly by leaders in the G20 summit and other forums, was a political question and would have to be taken by ministers.”

Keith Good

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