Senators Push Energy Star Transparency

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led a November 26 letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, urging the agency to make its Energy Star program more transparent. The letter said the agency should ensure it is collaborating with stakeholders. Other signatories were Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Griffith to Introduce Bill Cutting EPA Staff

Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA) told reporters November 27 that he is planning to introduce legislation next session to cut Environmental Protection Agency staff by 15 percent. He introduced the bill, H.R. 3641, on December 3. He said the fact that 95 percent of agency employees were considered non-essential during the shutdown was the reason behind the legislation. He said he does not expect the bill to be passed.

House Passes Hydro Bill

The House approved H.R. 1963, the Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act of 2013, by a voice vote on December 3. Introduced by Representative Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would allow private companies to better develop hydropower projects on federal sites. It would let developers lease sites, finance projects, and own generated electricity. Portions of the bill have been supported by the administration.

Smith Letter on GHG Rules’ Science

House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), in a December 3 letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, said he believes recent independent science advisor statements on the new source performance standards’ underlying science highlight issues with the proposed rules. He said he thinks the agency is overstepping its regulatory bounds with the rules; he continued by saying that the regulations are based more in politics than in science. HFCs

Letter to McCarthy

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) and Representative Scott Peters (D-CA) led a December 3 letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, urging the agency to speed up efforts to phase down hydrofluorocarbons. It said the agency should assist the market in transitioning away from these ozone-depleting substances. Along with Senator Carper and Representative Peters, the letter was signed by eight Senate and six House Democrats.

Tax Reform Delayed

Talking to reporters on December 4, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said he will not introduce tax reform legislation this year. He anticipates introducing the measure in February or March of next year. With reform delayed, the fate of tax extenders is up in the air. Many anticipate provisions will be extended retroactively.

E&C Hearing on FERC

All four Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commissioners testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy on December 5. Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur said the commission is making important strides in protecting against cyberattacks. She also said reviewing and approving liquefied natural gas export terminals has become one of the most important responsibilities. Commissioner John Norris said there is great uncertainty in the coal plant industry because companies assume that a price on carbon will be put in place; this uncertainty has been drying up investment capital.

Bills Introduced

  •  On December 3, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 3636, the Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act. The bill would create a 15 cents per gallon tax increase, phased in over three years, on gas and diesel. The tax would support transportation infrastructure investments.
  • The same day, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 3638, the Road Usage Fee Pilot Program Act. The bill would create a program to study mileage-based fee systems.
  • The same day, Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3640, the Innovation, Research, and Manufacturing Act. The bill would increase the research and development tax credit by 50 percent in addition to making it permanent.
  • The same day, Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced H.R. 3641, the Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Achievable Contraction of Technocrats (EPA MACT) Act. The bill would require the agency to reduce its workforce by 15 percent within three years.
  • On December 4, Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) introduced H.R. 3654, the Renewable Energy Standard Act of 2013. The bill would require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Upcoming Hearings

  • On December 10, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider several bill including H.R. 724, a bill to remove Clean Air Act requirements for dealer certification of new light-duty motor vehicles, and a discussion draft designed to strengthen U.S.-Israeli cooperation on energy development.
  • On December 11, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold a hearing to examine the Renewable Fuel Standard.
  • The same day, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing to examine the relationship between climate and weather.
  • On December 12, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider several Energy Department nominations including Steven Croley to be General Counsel and Christopher Smith to be Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. The committee will then hold a hearing to consider additional nominations including Dr. Franklin Orr to be Under Secretary for Science and Jonathan Elkind to be Assistant Secretary for International Affairs.
  • The same day, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on Nuclear Regulatory Commission management.