Republican lawmakers and their Senate Democratic counterparts participated in their party retreats last week, making it a short congressional week. This week Congress readies itself for the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Insiders anticipate that on the energy/environment front, the President will include comments related to climate change in an effort to continue to cement his legacy in that regard. Federal scientists reported late last week that 2014 was the hottest year on record.
Congress will be in all week and while much of Tuesday and Wednesday will be taken up with predictions and reactions to the President’s State of the Union speech, Congress will be focused on other business as well. The Senate agenda, for example, will remain dominated by amendments filed in light of the Keystone XL (S.1) pipeline debate (see below).
Items of Interest:
EPA’s Methane Announcement Continues to Garner Reactions from Stakeholders. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Wednesday announced that it would propose rulemakings during the summer of 2015 that would seek to regulate methane from new and modified oil and gas operations. The announcement indicated that EPA would pursue this course of action both through regulatory and voluntary measures. Environmental groups have objected to the proposed plan critiquing the Administration’s announcement for failing to include steps related to methane regulation from existing sources, too. It’s important to note that while EPA did not commit to regulating existing sources, the provisions of the Clean Air Act that will be used for new and modified sources can, as a general rule, trigger similar rules for existing sources under Section 111(d). Insiders anticipate that a proposal could be released as early as June of 2015 with a final rule expected in 2016.
The announcement comes a week after the Agency announced its plans to delay the finalization of its carbon emission regulations for new power plants, and thereby missed the one-year Clean Air Act statutory deadline, until later in the summer of 2015. Insiders anticipate that the delay also means that the June 2, 2015, deadline the President announced for finalization of a rule to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants will also be extended until a later time during the summer. The recent announcement also foreshadows that both final rules — for new and existing sources — will be issued closely in time to each other.
Agency Takes Additional Steps to Finalize the Water of the U.S. Rulemaking. Late last week, EPA finalized the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence. The document is meant to represent the science behind the Waters of the U.S. proposal, which has been met with controversy from a bipartisan group of policymakers concerned about the potential reach of the Clean Water Act under the proposal. The proposal is expected to be finalized sometime this Spring.
Keystone Debate Remains at the Forefront. By last week’s end, Senators had filed more than 50 amendments for consideration as part of the Keystone debate. More amendments are expected to be filed this week. At this juncture, leadership has been unable to arrive at a time agreement with regard to floor consideration of the amendments. Knowledgeable sources anticipate that if an agreement is not reached, Republicans could just begin to walk through the list of amendments filed. Among amendments of potential interest is one filed by Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer (R) that would override the Administration’s recently announced draft guidance that calls for federal agencies to consider greenhouse gas emissions as part of reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. The guidance release came despite years of little action since it was first proposed in 2010.