Legislative Activity

Senate leadership continues to work to encourage their colleagues to lift holds they have placed that have prevented further floor consideration of S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 and the Flint water funding package. While progress reportedly has been made to address Senator Mike Lee’s (R-UT) hold concerning spending for the Flint water crisis, the latest hold has been placed by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) in connection with an amendment concerning offshore oil and gas drilling and revenue. There has been some discussion about the possibility of bringing the energy bill and Flint package to the floor regardless of Senator Nelson’s hold, but that could cause the process to take much longer since it could require a cloture vote and more valuable floor time. With the Senate having passed the opioid bill last week, there is room on the floor this week to take up the energy bill/Flint package if the holds can be resolved. 

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, March 15, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing titled “Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan, Part 2.” Witnesses to will testify include: Susan Hedman, Former Region 5 Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Darnell Earley, Former Emergency Manager, City of Flint, MI; Dayne Walling, Former Mayor, City of Flint, MI among others. In addition, on Thursday, March 17, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing titled “Examining Federal Administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Michigan, Part 3.” EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan are expected to testify.
  • On Tuesday, March 15, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing titled “Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment.” The Committee will examine the President’s recent memorandum on mitigation and possible effects on domestic energy production.
  • On Tuesday, March 15, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing to examine the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s FY 2017 Budget Request. The Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, will testify.
  • On Tuesday, March 15, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, will hold a budget hearing for the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management. The Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, Dr. Monica Regalbuto, will testify.
  • On Wednesday, March 16, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, will hold a hearing to examine the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2017 Budget Request.
  • On Wednesday, March 16, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on WRDA titled “The 2016 Water Resources Development Act – Policies and Projects.”
  • On Wednesday, March 16, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Interior, will hold a hearing to examine the Renewable Fuel Standard. 

Regulatory Activity

Electricity Grid Modernization

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the second installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER 1.2). The QER 1.2 will focus primarily on the U.S. electricity grid with regard to integrating renewables, financing, markets and valuation, resilience and North American integration, among other grid modernization issues. The effort is to reshape the electricity system from generation to end use through 2040. DOE will hold public meetings around the country beginning March 31. The Department is expected to conclude its information collection early this summer in order to make its recommendations. Interested companies thus will have an opportunity to help shape the department’s ultimate findings. 

Methane Regulations

Last week, EPA announced its intention to begin drafting proposed rules to limit methane leaks from existing oil and gas drilling sites. (This is in addition to  a former EPA proposal to limit methane emissions from future drilling). EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated that “the EPA will begin tackling the issue immediately” by asking oil and gas companies to provide the EPA with information on methane emissions and reduction strategies. McCarthy noted that companies will be required to report certain data about methane output as early as next month.

Comprehensive Mitigation Policy Update

The Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced a proposal to revise a comprehensive mitigation policy that has been in place since 1981. The policy allows the USFWS authority to require mitigation for impacted natural resources. In this umbrella approach, USFWS is seeking “recommendations on mitigating the adverse impacts of land and water developments on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.” The agency notes that the drive for the update is based upon “changes in conservation challenges and practices since 1981, including accelerating loss of habitats, effects of climate change, and advances in conservation science.” Comments are due May 9.