Climate change legislation will remain in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee until September when Congress returns from its summer recess. Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., says she no longer intends to mark up the bill before the recess begins on August 7. This move is expected to give negotiators and their aides an extra month to work on the controversial legislation.
The delay was agreed to in a meeting between Boxer; Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator of energy and climate policy. Reid had originally declared a deadline of Sept. 18 for all committees to finish their work on the bill. That deadline is now Sept. 28.
The delay will give Boxer more time to work on legislative text. Her bill will be modeled on legislation that narrowly passed the House in June, which would cap greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming and create a system for buying and selling emissions permits. However, Boxer will likely have to make significant changes to the House bill in order to win support for her measure even among Democrats.
Senate Ag Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has announced that despite the delay, he plans to hold a climate change hearing on July 22. Harkin and other members say they want to ensure climate legislation in the Senate will include all provisions House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., secured for agriculture in the House measure. Harkin says he'd like to build on Peterson's language further in the Senate bill including more open offsets for sequestration and the ability for farmers to use land enrolled in farm bill conservation programs to also gain carbon offsets. Harkin would also like to handle ethanol - with language to raise the blend-rate from 10% to 15%.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., expects to see more interest in agriculture on the Senate side since every Senator has some farm interests in his or her state. Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has already started meeting with key members of the Environment and Public Works Committee in an attempt to make sure ag concerns are addressed earlier in the negotiation stages than they were in the House. There are reports of an agriculture-specific hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee Tuesday, July 14.