Two major issues will dominate the energy debate in the coming week – appropriations and the role of new environmental regulations in a fragile economy. When Congress returns after the Labor Day weekend it will immediately set about dealing with the twelve appropriations bills that must be passed by October 1. If past is prologue, it seems unlikely each bill will be considered and passed individually, but rather the bills will be packaged in one large omnibus bill or a continuing resolution will be enacted to buy more time to take each bill in-turn. Meanwhile, the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reform, charged with formulating a 10-year, $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan by Thanksgiving, will hold its first organizational meeting this Thursday, and its first hearing on September 13. The Senate is expected to dive straight into Patent Reform, the Federal Aviation Administration bill, and perhaps highway legislation.
The second largest battle will revolve around a spate of rules currently moving through the Environmental Protection Agency. On September 2, to the chagrin of environmentalist and vocal praise from business and industry, the Obama administration announced that it would not be issuing a revised EPA ozone rule. The administration publicly argued that it was not necessary to finalize the rule given that it is up for revision in two years anyway. Less publicized by the administration is the recognition that the current economic climate was not conducive to revising a rule that might negatively impact the administration’s stated goal of job creation. Environmental groups have promised to seek a stringent and immediate revision in court, while emboldened Congressional Republicans and business interests will continue their campaign against other pending EPA rules. Republicans are targeting rules concerning air quality standards for particulate matter, air toxics emissions for various industrial sources, and greenhouse gas regulations for power plants and refineries. In keeping with his administration’s pivot towards job creation, President Obama will address Congress on Thursday and lay out a job-creation agenda that is expected to include both FAA and surface transportation measures as well as other infrastructure projects that could be expedited and a specific focus on clean energy jobs.
In other news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hosted his fourth annual Clean Energy Summit in Nevada last week. Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu joined others in speaking at the event, and expressed support for the continued and increased funding of clean energy research, development, and education; the creation of a Clean Energy Development Agency; and the enactment of a Clean Energy Standard. In advance of Congress’ return and President Obama’s Congressional address, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) sent a letter to the president last Wednesday outlining his own jobs creation proposals. In addition to cutting corporate tax breaks, rolling back regulations, and passing a balanced budget amendment, the senator proposed passing a national renewable electricity standard.
Nevada already has a renewable standard in place, but the statement is a reminder that numerous Republicans have previously been in support of such a move, even if they are currently more subdued or even opposed to the idea.