There seems to be little prospect of passing cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate this year, and Rep. Collin Peterson is fighting hard against what is seen as an alternative -- having the EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Agriculture Committee Chair, who voted for cap-and-trade in the House and then said he didn't support the bill, was one of three lawmakers to introduce legislation today prohibiting the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA option has been creeping onto the scene in recent weeks, especially after the White House included funding for it in the FY2011 budget.

Why is Peterson doing this? First, he has been one of the agency's most vocal critics. But another possible motivation could be that if the EPA takes over the effort to curb greenhouse gasses there is little chance they would include his exemptions for agriculture. 

Earlier this year, Peterson withheld his support for the cap-and-trade bill in the House until Nancy Pelosi agreed to exempt agriculture from emissions caps and create a special exchange that would allow farmers to profit from greening their businesses.

While most farm groups are firmly against cap-and-trade legislation, they have praised Peterson for these exemptions. Their primary concern remains that the bill will unfairly heap costs on farmers by increasing energy prices.

On top of this, the cap-and-trade bill remains very unpopular in Peterson's conservative district and EPA regulation (which may not mirror a cap-and-trade system) probably wouldn't sell much better in northwest Minnesota.

In a statement, Peterson largely steered clear of the ag exemptions -- focusing instead on the potential cost to "all taxpayers."

“I have no confidence that EPA can regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without severe harm to all taxpayers. Americans know we’re way too dependent on foreign oil and fossil fuels in this country—and I’ve worked hard to develop real solutions to that problem—but elected officials should be making these types of decisions, not unelected bureaucrats at the EPA.  I’m proud to help sponsor this bill because if Congress doesn’t do something soon, the EPA is going to cram these regulations through all on their own.”

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