Energy issues will take center stage this week as the Supreme Court addresses the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas regulations and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) reintroduce their energy efficiency package.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for an uncommon 90 minutes February 24 in a case over the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of its greenhouse gas emissions regulations. The case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, hinges on whether the agency’s decision to regulate mobile emissions triggers regulations under the agency’s prevention of significant deterioration permitting program, which requires permits for new stationary facilities and those undergoing major modifications, and, if so, whether the agency was legally justified in its efforts to narrow the regulated scope.
Justices seemed to lean toward deferring to the agency to do what it considered best under the statute, but appeared split on whether the agency’s course of action was the best choice. The court’s decision is not expected to undermine the agency’s overall authority to regulate greenhouse gases, but the lawsuit could provide an opportunity for the court to issue guidance on how federal agencies should interpret federal statutes.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are expected to introduce a new version of their energy efficiency legislation (S. 1392) this week. The measure will incorporate a series of at least ten bipartisan amendments, many of which have already been vetted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It remains unclear when, or even whether, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will bring it to the floor, though there is renewed interest in addressing the energy efficiency issue in both the Senate and the House. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved January 28 similar bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2126) from Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and David McKinley (R-WV).
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a memo February 21 outlining the GOP agenda for the next month. Among other issues, Representative Cantor said that the House would consider
a package of energy bills the first week of March, including measures to expedite permitting for new power plants and ease propane transportation to areas with shortages. Though he did not mention it, Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) is expected to release his rewrite of the tax code this week as well, though comprehensive tax reform is unlikely to be completed this year.
In other issues this week, the Senate will debate judicial nominations and resume efforts on a veterans’ benefits bill (S. 1982), while the House will consider a flood insurance measure and Internal Revenue Service exempt organizations definitions (H.R. 3865). The House will also debate a bill (H.R. 2804) that would require proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules to be published on the internet for at least six months before going into effect.