According to reports from Grist today, House Ag committee chief Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is becoming a key obstacle to passing strong climate change legislation this year, threatening to unite the 26 Ag committee Democrats against the pending Waxman-Markey bill unless the final version contains huge handouts to the agribusiness industry in the form of bogus offset provisions and outright handouts to the discredited ethanol industry.
In short, if Peterson wins this battle, our nation’s first significant climate legislation will likely end up at worst rewarding, and at best not penalizing, chemical-intensive, greenhouse-gas-spewing agriculture. We will have bungled a major opportunity for positive change.
Unfortunately, it looks like Peterson is winning – a New York Times/Climate Wire report this morning revealed that Waxman has agreed to allow the USDA to oversee agricultural offset programs, a move that significantly weakens an already weak idea.
Waxman originally wanted to give oversight of the program to EPA, a setup that won the backing of many environmental groups. Environmental groups have said EPA — with its strong regulatory and scientific focus — is best suited for the task of carbon oversight. Those advocates argue that USDA is not a regulatory agency and is unlikely to crack down on questionable offset projects. They say EPA is more likely to stand up against fraud.
It’s not a surprise that Peterson, a politician whose top political contributions came from the American Farm Bureau in 2008, is representing Big Ag. It’s worth noting, also that it’s probably not a coincidence that the man leading the charge against climate legislation is from the same state as Cargill.
US agricultural interests – especially Cargill, ADM and Bunge, have already shown that they can’t be trusted to self regulate – or to do the responsible thing when it comes to our climate. At RAN, we’re already convinced that Waxman-Markey doesn’t do the job, but these exemptions for Big Ag make the potential for real action on climate change seem even more distant.