House Democrats Applaud RGGI

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) led 40 of his colleagues in promoting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a model for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants across the country. In a January 31 letter, the group urged the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that its GHG limits for existing plants provide flexibility for states that have already implemented similar regulations.

Crude Oil Export Data Requested

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to Energy Information Administrator Adam Sieminski February 3 requesting more information about how lifting the decades-old crude oil export ban would impact domestic oil production and consumption; domestic supplies and price; and refined petroleum product exports.

Quick Keystone Action Urged

A bipartisan House-Senate coalition joined business groups and labor unions at a February 4 news conference to call on President Obama to approve quickly the Keystone XL pipeline. In the Senate, there are three options under consideration to approve the pipeline: legislation the approve the project; a joint resolution expressing support for the project; and a time limit for the administration to make a decision, which was done in December 2011. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) has introduced legislation for the first two options. Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) said that the Senate could also take up House-passed legislation (H.R. 3) that approves the pipeline.

EPA Sound Science Questioned

Testifying before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee February 5, witnesses and Republican representatives accused the Environmental Protection Agency of overreaching its regulatory authority in a number of regulations, from greenhouse gas emissions on power plants; to utility maximum achievable control technology standards; to fracking; to cross-state air pollution; to clarifying the scope of American waters. The group charged that many of the regulations were not based on sound science.

Nolan Joins SEEC

Representative Rick Nolan (D-MN) joined the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition February 6.

Energy Efficiency Legislation Future Uncertain

Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) said February 6 that he does not believe that energy efficiency legislation will make it through Congress this year. Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) responded that everyone should be able to agree on efficiency, as it is a bipartisan issue.

House Climate Press Forthcoming

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced February 6 that the Safe Climate Caucus will run weekly op-eds in The Huffington Post and YouTube videos this year as part of a pledge to capture more attention for the climate change issue.

Grid Security Evaluation Requested

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Al Franken (D-MN) asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation February 7 to ensure that utilities are taking steps to guard against physical attacks that could harm the system. An attack on California’s electricity grid last spring has renewed concern over grid security, and the senators are seeking responses by March 3. The senators also asked the commission to implement minimum security standards at critical electric substations.

Legislation Introduced

  • Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced (S. 1988) legislation February 4 to allow states to opt out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas power plant standards, allowing state to keep plants open if they believe doing so is necessary to maintain electricity production, reliability, and affordability.
  • Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced legislation (S. 2003) February 6 to amend the solar and geothermal investment tax credit’s qualifying language so that any project that has begun construction by December 21, 2016, will still qualify for the credit. Currently, only solar and geothermal projects that are placed in service by the deadline will receive the credit.
  • Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced legislation (S. 2006) February 6 to establish a National Rare Earth Refinery Cooperative. The measure would encourage domestic production and refinement of rate earth materials, making the United States less vulnerable to China’s supply disruption and price manipulation.
  • House Science Committee Republicans led by Environment Subcommittee Chair David Schweikert (AZ) introduced legislation (H.R. 4012) to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.
  • Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced legislation (H.R. 3939) to make the research and development tax credit permanent. The measure includes provisions to renew, expand, or make permanent a series of other tax credits and infrastructure-related bond programs.

Upcoming Hearings

  • The House Science Committee’s environment panel will hold a hearing February 11 on “open science” at the Environmental Protection Agency
  • The same day, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will consider the status of Department of Energy clean coal programs.
  • The Senate Energy Subcommittee will hold a hearing February 12 to examine state efforts to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy policy. Witnesses include Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman; Randy C. Clark, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NORESCO; Steve Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy; Mark Glick, State Energy Director of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; William E. Taylor, Director of Texas’ Energy Conservation Office, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; and GoodCents CEO and President William Rodgers.
  • The same day, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to consider preparations for extreme weather events.