Friday, June 19, 2009

Rural Democrats near deal on climate bill, as it moves toward wishes of USDA, electric co-ops

"House Democrats are on the verge of a deal with rebelling Farm Belt legislators on a climate-change bill," Ian Talley reports for The Wall Street Journal. "Lawmakers and industry officials close to the negotiations said the two sides could reach an agreement within days, under which rural utilities could receive a small share of free emission credits -- less than 1 percent of the total that would be handed out. The credits allow the holder to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases." Co-ops get 80 percent of their power from coal.

As reported here early this week, the point man for rural Democrats on the issue, Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said rural electric cooperatives' problem with the climate bill was more significant than issues raised by farmers. However, the pending deal would also "appease Farm Belt lawmakers," Talley writes, by giving the Agriculture Department "greater involvement in oversight of the market" for credits. That's something Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he wanted during a visit to Kentucky last month.

Christa Marshall of ClimateWire has a more pessimistic report, for The New York Times: "Yesterday, resolution on the issue appeared distant. According to Peterson, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) offered a tweak in the legislative language that would be more favorable to co-ops, but it didn't 'do much' to move things along. English echoed that sentiment yesterday, and said no further meetings were planned between himself, Markey, Waxman and Peterson."

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