The threat of a government shutdown looms as Congress debates and attempts to pass its continuing resolution today. Should no agreement be reached by the start of the new fiscal year at midnight, Washington, D.C. will come to a standstill. Agencies and departments have already submitted their contingency plans for a shutdown. The Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will all experience furloughs and the halting of programs. The Department of Energy reported that multi-year and no-year appropriations will sustain certain work through the shutdown. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has leftover appropriations, can survive for about a week at relatively normal operations.
The energy and environment event leading the news this past week was the release of the International Panel on Climate Change’s summary of its Fifth Assessment Report on Friday. The report found that average surface temperatures have risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the industrial revolution, and scientists writing the report said that they are 95 to 100 percent certain that human activity is the driver of this increase. The Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, concluded that temperatures had risen 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit with 66 to 90 percent certainty. The September 27 summary also tracked arctic ice levels, greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels, and severe weather events. While there has been a slowdown in the rate of global warming, the report’s authors said that global warming has not ended. Today, the panel released the first part of the report, which detailed the scientific assessments. The second part, on adaptation and vulnerability, and the third part, on mitigation, will be released next year.
Response to the summary report was mixed. On the international side, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, addressing a Climate Week NYC event three days prior to the release of the draft report, said the report reinforces the need for quick action on climate change. U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said the report shows the need for greater climate action. Domestically, many Democratic congressmen said the draft report highlighted the need to implement President Obama’s climate action plan while many Republican members said the report was skewed by political agendas. Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern asking about lobbying efforts by the U.S. government to the IPCC. A Senate Environment and Public Works Committee aide said on Friday that the committee will hold a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas emission regulations for new power plants as well as on the IPCC report.
If the government does not shutdown—or, if it does, when Congress returns—the Senate will continue to debate the nomination of Ron Binz to serve as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman. The result of the nomination process is now uncertain as many of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including most Republicans and some Democrats, have come out against Binz. The White House is considering other candidates should the committee or full Senate vote down the nomination. On Tuesday, President Obama nominated Catherine Ann Novelli to serve as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment. It is rumored that the president will nominate Neil Konze to serve as Bureau of Land Management. Konze currently serves as Principal Deputy Director of the bureau.