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Deal could lead to passage of greenhouse gas bill

Key Democrats reach agreement that could result in House passage of an environmental bill aimed at slowing the heating of the planet.

June 24, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Key Democrats reached a deal Tuesday that its supporters hope will lead to House passage of the biggest environmental bill in decades, one aimed at slowing the heating of the planet.

Farm-state Democrats won concessions that will delay the Environmental Protection Agency from drafting regulations that could hamper the ethanol industry and will hand the Agriculture Department oversight of potentially lucrative projects to reduce greenhouse gases on farms.

The House is expected to take up the legislation Friday, the first time the chamber will vote on a bill to impose nationwide limits on the gases blamed for global warming emitted from power plants, factories and automobiles.

The breakthrough came hours after President Obama at a news conference called on the House to pass the legislation, and a new EPA analysis showed that it would raise household energy costs on average $80 to $111 a year.

The deal concludes weeks of negotiations between the bill's sponsor, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), and farm-state Democrats, led by Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.), who had expressed concern that the bill would cost farmers too much.

Peterson said Tuesday that the agreement secured his vote.

The deal will bar the EPA for five years from including the conversion of forests to crop land when it calculates how ethanol production will contribute to global warming. During that time, the agency will have to conduct a study.

Waxman agreed that the USDA, not the EPA, would oversee efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions on farms.

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