The House and the Senate are in recess this week. The Senate, however, is scheduled to take up a cloture vote regarding the Ukraine situation once it returns next week. In addition to imposing sanctions on individuals engaged in corruption or economic extortion related to Russia’s Ukrainian occupation, the package would provide loan guarantees and $150 million in economic assistance to Ukraine. According to the Energy Information Administration, approximately 16 percent of Europe’s natural gas is transported through Ukraine.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Washington was teeming last week with special interest groups lobbying Congress regarding their specific interests prior to the mid-March congressional recess. Similar to other years, interest groups appeared to be focused on making funding asks. Appropriators are beginning their work in earnest and Appropriations Committee members on both sides of the Capitol are due to submit their requests to their respective Committees this upcoming week.
On the political front, the narrow victory of David Jolly in a special election to replace the late C.W. Bill Young (R-13-FL) provided an early opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to test their core messages in advance of the upcoming mid-term elections. Republican David Jolly, a former Young staffer, defeated Democrat Alex Sink 49 percent to 47 percent. In the weeks prior to the election, polls showed the race would be competitive with both political parties, in addition to outside groups and super political action committees, investing millions of dollars in campaign advertisements.
On the Senate side, former Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown has announced his intention to form an exploratory committee to run as a Republican candidate for the New Hampshire Senate seat. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is currently in-cycle. If elected, Brown would be the third Senator to represent more than one state in the United States Senate. While recent polls give Shaheen a solid lead in a potential contest, Brown's name recognition in New Hampshire, which shares the Massachusetts media market, and his national fundraising contacts, could make him a serious contender.
Other Items of Interest:
- House Republicans Continue to Focus on the Administration’s Reliance on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as Part of its Effort to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG). In a continuation of its previous efforts, the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the powerful Energy Commerce Committee submitted a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting information regarding the decision-making process surrounding the use of CCS technology as a basis for EPA’s GHG rulemakings. EPA’s reliance on CCS has sparked controversy given an Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05; PL 109-58) provision that explicitly states that projects receiving federal assistance through the Clean Coal Project Initiative cannot be the sole basis to determine that a technology is “adequately demonstrated” for purposes of the greenhouse gas regulation. Opponents to the rulemaking believe the provision undermines the legal basis for the rule. The Committee requests documents regarding communications with other agencies related to the decision-making process, as well as the names of EPA staff engaged in “evaluating the application of provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to the agency’s pending NSPS proposals for power plants . . .,” among its various requests.
In other CCS-related news, Janet McCabe, acting head of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation and the nominee to head the office, testified at a House Science Committee hearing last week as the lone government witness on the second panel of the hearing. McCabe emphasized as part of her testimony that the adoption of strict emission controls would result in advancing technology and ultimately result in driving down costs as it “becomes part of the mainstream . . .” McCabe countered Republican policymaker charges that the new EPA rulemakings to limit GHGs from coal-fired power plants are based on technology that is largely commercially unavailable.
McCabe is rumored to be an upcoming witness before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee for her confirmation hearing before mid-April. The hearing date has not yet been noticed.
- One of the Initial Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export Terminal Appears Headed Toward Construction. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a draft environmental review on March 14, 2014 for the $14 billion Freeport natural gas proposed expansion project located in Brazoria County, Texas. The Friday announcement concluded that the proposed projects’ environmental impacts would be minimal, short term and subject to mitigation. If approved, the majority of the facility’s natural gas would go to customers in Asia. Comments on the draft are due May 5, 2014. Afterwards, FERC would issue a final environmental impact statement, and a permit to begin construction would be issued in mid-2014. In May of last year, the Department of Energy provided Freeport with a 20-year license to export LNG to non-free trade agreement countries.
- Energy and Natural Resource (ENR) Committee to Hold First Hearing Regarding Energy Exports. On March 25, 2014, Senate ENR Chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) will hold her first hearing on energy exports. Further details on the “Importing Energy, Exporting Jobs. Can it be Reversed?” hearing are still pending.