Ten days after the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill 66-27, the House defeated the $940 billion H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, on June 20. Next steps on the measure are uncertain, though there may still be time for passage later this summer. While major energy pushes failed last week, the Senate was able to advance 14 small bills relating to energy and public land, including S. 26, the Bonneville Unite Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act; S. 244, a bill to modify Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project offices; and S. 276, a bill to extend the construction commencement deadline for the American Falls Reservoir hydroelectric project.
With just a week left before the July 4th recess, the House will consider H.R. 2231, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, and H.R. 1613, the Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act. The Senate is expected to confirm Anthony Foxx to serve as Transportation Secretary and Penny Pritzker to serve as Commerce Secretary. House and Senate Appropriations Committees are scheduled to finalize considerations this week for the FY14 energy and water appropriations bills.
On Wednesday, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced the committee’s priorities for the summer. Chairman Boxer said she will work to advance the nomination of Gina McCarthy to serve as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. She added that she will continue to place a hold on the nomination of Dr. Allison Macfarlane to remain as Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman until Macfarlane hands over additional documents related to the San Onofre power plant. Chairman Macfarlane has reportedly been considering teaching posts at universities should her nomination proceedings fall through. She also plans for the committee to consider Toxic Substances Control Act reform and climate change impacts. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have indicated they are planning to introduce climate change legislation soon; Senator Feinstein’s bill would charge power plants $10 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The committee will also consider the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) at two hearings in July and September.
Following the recent death of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) announced June 20 that he will join the Senate Appropriations Committee, giving up his seat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will replace him. While it is still unclear who will take Senator Lautenberg’s vacated seat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, many people expect Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) to replace him following the June 25 special election.
On Tuesday, President Obama will lay out the administration’s strategy for addressing climate change at Georgetown University. The White House began rolling out its messaging campaign on Friday over social media, including releasing a teaser video. Administration officials have consistently signaled since the president’s second inaugural address that in the absence of new congressional legislation, they will leverage existing authorities to further their climate and energy agenda. The White House has signaled that the three primary policy planks will include: the Environmental Protection Agency promulgating GHG emission standards for new and existing fossil fuel plants under the Clean Air Act, the Department of Energy accelerating energy conservation standards for commercial and industrial appliances, and the Department of Interior incentivizing technically feasible renewable resource development on federal lands through improved permitting, including fast-tracking and streamlining processes. Other potential announcements include: recipients of the joint Defense Production Act advanced biofuel initiative to establish a drop-in biofuels industry in the United States, new federal energy goals to adopt more renewable assets at government facilities and to increase energy conservation measure adoption, and new adaptation strategies by federal agencies to help coordinate and prepare the nation for the impacts of climate change on public health, communities, oceans, wildlife, and water resources. The president’s remarks will likely bring climate change and clean energy policies back into the spotlight this summer, but it is still too soon to tell what, if any, constructive legislative response Congress will undertake.