April brings Senate defeat of a range of measures to limit EPA control of greenhouse gas emissions

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

In the first two weeks of April, Senators have soundly defeated a number of amendments to the Small Business bill that would have limited or ended the US Environmental Protection Agency’s role in regulating the emission of carbon dioxide, methane and other “CO2-equivalent” gases which have been found, according to US Supreme Court decision (2007) to be harmful to human health and the environment.

“We don’t want to debate the science of climate change, but we do want to assert that great care needs to be taken in whatever approach government does take to limit greenhouse gas emissions, so that we don’t endanger other equally important values–like assuring that our food supply remains abundant and affordable for all Americans,” said Greg Schwarz, a farmer in Le Sueur, Minnesota who serves as president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “We think that climate change may be too important an issue to leave in the hands of bureaucrats and instead should be handled by our elected officials, who are more directly answerable to the voters. Just coming out of the worst economic times since the Great Depression and with our country still slow to add jobs, we need to assure that whatever approach arises it won’t endanger jobs.”

Shots at EPAs role in GHG emissions regulations came from both sides of the aisle, though the biggest challenge came in an amendment from Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, which would have ended EPA regulation of GHGs altogether.

The McConnell amendment garnered a 50-50 vote, but needed 60 votes to pass. Four Democrats joined 46 Republicans voting in the affirmative. One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against the amendment.

Earlier, an amendment that would have exempted farmers and small businesses from EPA greenhouse rules failed on a vote of 93-7. Max Baucus, D-Montana, authored the amendment, and the vote split the Minnesota delegation: Sen. Amy Klobuchar voting in favor, Sen. Al Franken voting against. Both are Democrats.

West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller offered an amendment that would suspend greenhouse rules for two years, to allow Congress to further study the issue, particularly its economic impact, before setting the 2009-approved GHG provisions of the Clean Air Act in motion.  Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, offered a similar amendment. Both were defeated.

The National Corn Growers Association favors an approach to greenhouse gas reductions that would be similar to other ‘green box’ USDA programs — voluntary, incentive-based programs that can reward farmers for engaging in agricultural practices that would increase carbon sequestration.

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