By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A scuffle between Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies and Senate may benefit the country’s environment norms. The bill, which would authorize the deforestation of over five million hectares of forest and delay reforestation of another four million hectares, is due to expire on Monday, June 3rd, and the Senate has already said it will not vote on it by then.

Brazil, New bill would ease fines due to deforestation
The new bill would ease fines due to deforestation, photo by Matt Zimmerman/Wikimedia CC

“I advise the senators that I will not convene the Senate tomorrow [Thursday, May 30th] to vote on this bill. Therefore, regardless of whether the House vote is concluded today, this office will comply with the agreement among party leaders. We will not vote on the bill,” said Senate President Davi Alcolumbre on Wednesday night.

Senators have complained for years that the Chamber delays and prolongs its hearings and decisions on important bills, leaving the Upper House very little time to deliberate and vote. The Senate now seems to have chosen this particular bill to make its point, and environmentalists are pleased.

“It is absurd to make a change that affects the entire sector to favor 147,000 properties in Brazil,” executive secretary of the Forestry Code Observatory, Roberta del Giudie was quoted as saying by news site UOL.

According to the Observatory, a civic organization created by 28 institutions, the bill approved by the Chamber would compromise the original Forest Code for the benefit of a few large farmers. Studies conducted by the entity indicate that the nine million hectares affected by the amendments are distributed among only 147,906 properties.

For them, the sum of the deforested regions approved in the bill would be equivalent to the territory of Portugal.

The bill, edited at the end of 2018, amends the Forest Code, intended to give rural producers until December 31st, 2020, to comply with the Code. But after long discussions, the Chamber added 35 amendments to the bill and according to environmentalists “disfigured” the Code.

According to del Giudie the amendments did not define a start date for farmers to comply.

Brazil's Chamber of Deputies votes on amended Forest Code bill,
Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies votes on amended Forest Code bill, photo by Wilson Dias/Agencia Brasil.

“The producer will only be obliged to restore the biome after notification by a government authority. If a government entity identifies but decides to notify only twenty years from now, the producer would still have a year to adjust. With bankrupt states and environmental agencies scrapped, do you think these notifications will occur?” questions the environmentalist.

None of this, however, will be implemented if the Senate does not vote on the bill.

To ease the tension between the two Congressional houses, Senate leader Fernando Bezerra Coelho (MDB-PE) said a new interim measure or bill could be issued immediately so that the matter could be voted on before the beginning of the mid-year legislative recess.

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