Congress continues its work in Washington on fiscal and non-fiscal related matters. This upcoming week, the Senate is expected to continue to consider the immigration overhaul legislation. The full House will consider its version of farm bill re-authorization legislation (S.744).
On the fiscal front, passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government for at least part of fiscal year (FY) 2014 is looking more likely, at least until an anticipated and broader budget deal is brokered and finalized later this year. A key sticking point between House Republican leadership and Senate Democratic leaders (and the White House) has been whether FY 2014 spending assumes the sequester. This week, House appropriators continued their work on spending bills as they considered the FY 2014 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies bill and the FY 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies measure. Both bills combined are subject to close to $14 billion in discretionary spending cuts, a marked difference from the funding allocations for four other spending bills already considered by the Committee, which combined were only subject to approximately $5 billion in reductions. The outstanding spending bills will likely also be subject to steep discretionary spending cuts as Republicans work to stay within the $967 billion cap created in the 2011 deficit reduction law (PL 112-25).
Increased Speculation Regarding Executive Branch Climate Change Action This Summer
Washington continues to chatter regarding possible climate change-related action the White House might take during the next month along the lines of a climate action plan that is part of the “we can’t wait for Congress to act” campaign. Some sources indicate it could be the issuance of final regulations to regulate greenhouse gases from new power plants; while others point to a series of initiatives the Administration may implement by Executive Order. Differing camps agree, however, that any climate change-related announcement could be a give to the environmental community which could be disappointed with the President’s decision to approve TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL project. In other climate change-related news, Senator Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, intends to hold a hearing focused on climate change impacts. The Committee will consider the Climate Protection Act (S. 332), which Boxer in conjunction with Senator Sanders (I-VT), introduced earlier this year. The legislation requires fossil fuel upstream producers to pay a $20 per ton carbon fee. The legislation is unlikely to garner full Senate consideration.
House Committee of Jurisdiction Considers Coal Ash Bill
The Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee considered and cleared a number of measures this week including the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2218). The bill was designed to pre-empt EPA’s authority to regulate coal ash by setting minimum federal standards and to allow states to develop a permit program. The legislation was approved by the Energy and Economy Subcommittee of the E&C Committee earlier this month, albeit without Democratic support and despite efforts by bill proponents to assuage the minority’s concerns. Largely expected to eventually clear the House when it is considered before the full chamber, passage of a similar bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate side remains an open question. Senators Baucus (D-MT) and Hoeven (R-ND) are likely to introduce somewhat similar legislation this summer that also attempts to address two issues that EPA staff view as outstanding, and absent from H.R. 2218.
DOE Secretary Moniz Testifies before Congress for First Time on DOE 2014 Budget
Secretary of Energy Moniz, in his first foray before Congress in the House Energy and Power (E&P) Subcommittee last week, pointed to a number of themes of interest for the subcommittee’s membership, including climate change, the prospect for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, and the future of natural gas exports. Subcommittee Members repeatedly commented on climate change with Moniz testifying that the issue was one where “we need to start talking about how we manage still within the all-of-the-above energy philosophy, how we manage the transition to a low-carbon economy.” On the CCS front, Moniz testified that “government funding is the only way to get to the demonstration phase.” The CCS discussion also focused on utilization and sequestration efforts that involve the use of carbon for enhanced oil recovery, with Moniz citing that approximately 60 million tons per year of CO2 are being used to produce 300,000 barrels a day of oil from enhanced recovery. Asked about the pending liquefied natural gas (LNG) applications, Moniz reiterated his earlier commitment made during his confirmation process, to examine the pending LNG applications on a case-by-case basis. On a related note, this week the E&P Subcommittee will hear from government witnesses and private sector stakeholders regarding fossil fuel (e.g., coal and natural gas) “regulatory, market and legal barriers.”
Senate Consideration of Energy Efficiency Legislation Remains a Possibility Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Wyden (D-OR) continued to breathe life into the possibility of Senate consideration of energy efficiency legislation later this summer. The Chairman expressed his optimism last week regarding the prospect of securing floor time consideration for, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 (S.761), contingent on his Senate colleagues offering germane amendments to the legislation. The bill’s chief sponsors—Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)—have been working on energy efficiency legislation for a number of years. Most recently, they used a consensus process among a wide and diverse stakeholder group to develop and amend the bill, which has broad public support.
Senate Armed Services Approves FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act; Efforts to Limit the Military’s Procurement of Biofuels Fail
Previewing a potential battle during Conference, the Senate Armed Services Committee considered and approved, 23-3, its version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), albeit in a closed-door session. Different than from previous years, where the inclusion of anti-biofuel amendments was approved, this year’s efforts to limit the military’s ability to procure biofuels, were unsuccessful. As anticipated in last week’s Washington Energy Update, the House considered and handily approved its NDAA version, which included three provisions designed to limit the Department of Defense’s procurement of biofuels. Amendments to strip the three provisions from the bill were ruled “not in order” and therefore were not considered.
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