Archive for the ‘Greenhouse Gases’ Category

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.

A damaging EPA stance on biomass

The agency wants to regulate it like fossil fuels, and that harms Minnesota.

Commentary published by Star Tribune Newspaper

In a few weeks, just as the two of us are being sworn in as freshmen (state) legislators with huge issues on our plates here at home, new federal regulations are in store for one of Minnesota’s most promising industries.

The effects of these regulations from Washington will not be good for either our plans for renewable and traditional energy options or for our economy and jobs.

On Jan. 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will implement its “Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule,” which will regulate emissions from the combustion of renewable biomass the same as emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

The EPA will require biomass producers to comply with onerous and expensive Washington regulations that will have a chilling effect on our forest industry.

Our Take:
We would welcome a review of EPA’s stance on a spectrum of issues–frankly they are an agency that cannot currently see the forest for the trees–their hyper-regulatory approach is counter-productive to the nation’s environmental and energy goals. And this is not simply harmless government make-work. The EPA’s current expansion of power is a real threat to jobs and the economy in addition to marching us backwards in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Daudt and McElfatrick’s commentary goes on to quote Rep. Collin Peterson, in his communication to President Obama that “[The EPA is] screwing things up. … I’ve told the president directly that he needs to rein them in, but so far it hasn’t happened.” 

District Energy in Saint Paul has used biomass waste-to-energy (including ag waste) for decades, to produce steam heat for downtown Saint Paul businesses and government buildings. Not only is this carbon neutral because these plants used as feedstock bound carbon out of the atmosphere during their lifecycle, but the technology continues to develop and to reduce emissions. What all biomass industries need is room to grow and to continue on their path of greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact. The other alternative is growing our use of fossil fuels. As EPA has itself said fossil powered electric generation and petroleum refining are the two largest sources of carbon emissions in the country (oil refining produces 200 billion tons of carbon annually and electric generation many multiples of that). So why can’t EPA policy get out of its own way and help push bioenergy and help show petroleum to the door? 

More legislators need to join Peterson in carrying the message to the President that we need a return of common sense at EPA. Viewing combustion of biomass as carbon neutral is just plain common sense, and EPA is showing that it cannot avail itself of what is plain to many others. Let’s have a groundswell around the push to bring EPA back to earth and within bounds.