The House and Senate had passed different versions of H.R. 2996, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior and for environmental agencies. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of representatives of both bodies. Those representatives typically have flexibility in negotiating the final terms. However, prior to the start of the conference, a Member may move to have the House instruct its representatives to insist on a particular provision.
This was a vote on a motion by Rep. Simpson (R-Idaho) that the House conferees insist on the provision in the House version of the bill prohibiting any funds from being used to implement a regulation requiring reporting of certain greenhouse gas emissions; the regulation related to emissions from manure management systems.
Rep. Simpson argued in support of his motion that: “(A)ccording to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), livestock manure management systems account for less than 1 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Over 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in total come from (other) sources . . . (that) are not subject to the reporting rule. By the EPA's own admission, regulating these (other) sources would be overly expensive and burdensome.”
Simpson, in further support of his motion, claimed that that the conference agreement was likely to include an exemption to a clean air rule affecting ships on the Great Lakes. He said that this exemption was being supported by Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey (D-Wisc), who “recognized that the excesses of the EPA would place additional hardships upon an economy already devastated by the recession . . . .” Simpson then argued: “That's no different from what (we are) trying to do to help farmers, ranchers, and livestock producers . . . .” Simpson also said that “(M)embers of the Agriculture Committee have been warning us for years of the danger of climate change rulemaking outside of the legislative process.”
Rep. Dicks (D-Wash) chairs the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 2996. He opposed the motion. In response to Simpson’s suggestion that the regulation would impose a burden on farmers, ranchers, and livestock producers, Dicks noted that “only the 90 largest manure management systems in the country would be required to report their emissions, those who annually emit as much in greenhouse gases as 58,000 barrels of oil.” He noted that “thousands of small farmers would be exempted . . . .”
Dicks said that: "(I)t is important for the EPA to receive information from these systems because the EPA needs reliable data on the greenhouse gas emissions from major facilities in all industries if we are going to be able to base our climate policy on a solid and thorough understanding of the problem.” He argued that “this rule . . . does the right thing. It exempts thousands of small farmers; but for the ones who have enormous operations, where large amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted, they have to report. I think that's reasonable . . . Congress directed that this be done . . . so that we could make these decisions based on science, not on just political machinations . . . I think it's a reasonable compromise."
The motion carried by a vote of 267-147. One hundred and sixty-eight Republicans and ninety-nine Democrats voted “aye”. All one hundred and forty-seven “nay’ votes were cast by Democrats, including a majority of the most progressive Members. As a result, the conferees were instructed to insist that language prohibiting any funds from being used to implement a regulation requiring reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems be kept in the final version of H.R. 2996.