Energy issues received some significant national attention last week as both houses of Congress began to lay out their plans for the 113th Congress, and President Obama delivered his second inaugural address after he was sworn in for his second term.
President Obama highlighted climate change in his inaugural address January 21, signaling a renewed commitment to action on the issue, but it is too early to tell whether and how that will translate into a broad agenda or a new push for legislation this year. Legislation, however, is not the only path forward for addressing climate issues in the coming months. The Environmental Protection Agency has already released a rulemaking agenda that includes regulation to address emissions from new power plants, and the president has wide-ranging administrative authority that allows him to use executive orders and new regulations to benefit the clean energy sector. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) included a climate-related measure, “Preparing for Extreme Weather,” in a January 22 list of his top ten legislative priorities for the 113th Congress, and other potential areas for forward movement include energy efficiency legislation and the renewal of clean energy tax credits, as well as a renewed discussion about carbon taxes during the comprehensive tax reform negotiations.
The Senate is expected to vote this week on the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill (H.R. 152) and on President Obama’s nomination of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. During a January 24 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Kerry said that he plans to make “appropriate judgments” regarding the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline soon.