June 2, 2009 / 2:56 PM / 9 years ago

Possible changes to House climate bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Climate change legislation is advancing in the U.S. House of Representatives and is expected to go through several committees this month.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already approved the bill to cut industry’s greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. Now, other committees will take their crack at the bill which could result in further changes.

Once the bill lands on the House floor, possibly this month or next, more changes will be sought. For example, some moderate Democrats want a 14 percent goal, instead of 17 percent, for the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Senate Democratic leaders say they also want to debate and pass a climate bill this year. But the outlook for one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities is more uncertain in the Senate.

The following are scenarios for major changes to the bill that various House committees could attempt:

* AGRICULTURE - Democrats from farm states are threatening to withhold support unless they win safeguards for ethanol and other biofuels from proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The climate bill could give them leverage: assuming most House Republicans oppose the bill, many in this group of moderate Democrats must be on board in order to pass the measure.

* OIL DRILLING - Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee want to increase the fees industry pays for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. It also wants to cut the duration of those leases. The committee could attach the plan to the climate bill.

Another possible initiative: New planning for offshore oil drilling. If incorporated, this could give some Democrats enough political “cover” to support the climate bill, as their worries about higher energy prices related to the climate bill could be eased by prospects of more domestic oil production.

* TAXES AND TRADE. The House Ways and Means Committee may leave the bill mostly alone but that is still being weighed. But if this panel decides it needs to raise revenues to pay for other initiatives, it could attach new tax provisions. Obama had hoped that the climate legislation would generate hundreds of billions of dollars to finance the continuation of a working-class tax break, but the Energy and Commerce Committee did not go along.

The Ways and Means Committee also oversees trade and it could consider provisions such as further aid to heavy manufacturing firms competing with foreign imports.

* SCIENCE AND RESEARCH. The Science and Technology Committee wants to create a national climate agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It might try to attach the initiative to the climate bill moving through the House. The idea is to improve scientific knowledge of climate change and provide forecasts and warnings to the public related to changes in the weather and climate.

* OTHER CONCERNS: The House Financial Services Committee and the Agriculture Committee want to have rules in place for trading pollution permits down the road.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, editing by Vicki Allen

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