A number of markers, which are likely to be the first of many, were laid last week in anticipation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy’s announcement to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from existing utilities. See Sidley’s Environmental Update here, which lays out the main tenets of the Administration’s climate announcement. Last week, for example, the House included an amendment, which cleared the House 226-179, to the Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce-Justice-Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 4660). As passed, the amendment would prevent the use of monies to negotiate or agree to trade agreements that limit carbon pollution. The overall bill easily passed the House last Friday.
In other upcoming carbon proposal activity, the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the GHG rulemaking on June 18, 2014. Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, is expected to testify. On the other side of the Capitol, Senators also began to lay the groundwork for their concern and/or opposition regarding the climate change proposal. Earlier in May, a group of 45 Senators sent a letter to Administrator McCarthy calling for at least a 120-day comment period on the proposal. Late last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that he would introduce legislation this upcoming week when the Senate is back in session that addresses the carbon reduction proposal. The legislation is likely to be aimed at precluding EPA from finalizing regulations until various government agencies can provide certainty that jobs, gross domestic product and energy prices, etc., will not suffer as a result.
On budget related matters, the Senate, which will be in this week, should see some appropriations-related activity, albeit at the Subcommittee and Committee levels. Senate appropriators are expected to consider and approve two FY 2015 bills (Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and the Senate version of Commerce-Justice-Science and Related Agencies) by the end of the week. Senate appropriators have targeted July 10, 2014 as the date by which they want all of their spending measures approved. House appropriators, who are out this week as a result of the House recess, have cleared spending bills and made significant progress to meet their end goal of clearing all of the spending measures by the July 4th recess. The full House has considered and approved three appropriations bills thus far; the Senate has yet to consider any on the Senate floor.
Other Items of Interest:
- House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Approves Permitting Legislation. Following a hearing earlier in May regarding the scope of EPA’s permitting process, the House Energy and Power Subcommittee marked up and approved legislation that would alter the manufacturing permitting process. More specifically, the bill calls for EPA to publish the status of New Source Review program pre-construction permits for the construction or expansion of manufacturing facilities and power plants.
- Department of Energy (DOE) Proposes to Eliminate Conditional Approvals for Liquefied (LNG) Natural Gas Projects. Citing to benefits of the procedural change, Department of Energy officials indicated late last week their intention to alter the LNG permitting process to date for LNG exports. Instead of issuing conditional approvals, the Department proposes to issue final determinations for projects that have completed National Environmental Policy Act (PL 91–190) review requirements. The proposal has a 45-day comment period. Importantly, the proposal comes after the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation (H.R. 6 – Domestic Freedom Global Prosperity Act) that would provide expedited approval to exports of natural gas to World Trade Organization countries.
- Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Continues Oversight of the DOE Loan Guarantee Program. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing last Friday with the intention of examining recent developments and the current status of the Department of Energy’s Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Subcommittee Members questioned DOE and Government Accountability Office witnesses regarding program reforms, government efforts to improve program management and oversight, and the Department’s announced plans to grant additional loans with its remaining $40 billion of existing loan authority. Inquiries into the DOE Loan Guarantee program are expected to continue.