Manchin Urges WV to Prepare for GHG Regs

Speaking to the West Virginia University College of Law February 24, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said that the Clean Air Act provides the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, and that the state must work to prepare for the impacts the regulations will have on the coal sector. Senator Manchin is urging the administration to work with states to have maximum flexibility in achieving the standards. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) recently met with Administrator Gina McCarthy to discuss the agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Impartial Keystone Assessment Questioned

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) asked the Government Accountability Office February 25 to investigate whether the State Department conducted a thorough and impartial assessment when it favorably reviewed the environmental impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline. He charged that the agency’s ability to conduct an unbiased assessment is questionable given that it hired Environmental Resources Management, which has close ties to the industry, to complete it. He indicated that the agency has privately committed to undertaking the investigation.

Climate Adaptation Fund Modest

Testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Oversight Subcommittee February 25, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren said that President Obama’s call for a $1 billion climate adaptation fund is a bargain given the economic damages extreme weather events can cause. Eleven such events in 2012 killed 377 people and caused $110 billion in damage. The president will propose the Climate Resilience Fund in his fiscal 2015 budget request.

Fossil Fuel Health Impacts

Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), held a press briefing February 26 on health issues associated with extracting petroleum from Canada’s oil sands as well as the Keystone XL pipeline. The same day, she and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Secretary of State John Kerry to complete a comprehensive health impact study of the pipeline before he makes a decision about the project.

EPW Subcommittee Changes

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced changes to the subcommittee leadership February 26 following Senator Max Baucus’ (D-MT) confirmation as Ambassador to China. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) will chair the subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure, while Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) will head the oversight panel, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will chair the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee.

Interior Deputy Secretary Confirmed

The Senate confirmed Michael Connor as deputy Interior secretary February 27. Mr. Connor is currently a commissioner of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and previously served as counsel to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In his new role, he will work on energy issues including fracking on public lands and offshore oil and natural gas development.

Markey Calls for Climate Legislation

Speaking to a Global Leaders Organization forum February 27, Senator Ed Markey said that Congress needs to pass a climate bill in the next two years to cement United States’ leadership on the issue that could be critical to finalizing a global climate accord in Paris in 2015. The organization issued the GLOBE Climate Legislation Study: A Review of Climate Change Legislation in 66 Countries last week, detailing the approximately 500 climate laws that have thus far been enacted around the world.

House TSCA Draft Released

Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) released a discussion draft February 27 of Toxic Substances Control Act reform legislation. The Chemicals in Commerce Act would preserve state authority to ban or restrict chemicals until the Environmental Protection Agency makes a final decision that a chemical is not likely to cause unreasonable risk, or it promulgates a restriction itself after employing a tiered approach to evaluate chemicals. The draft is similar to the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) from Senators David Vitter (D-LA) and the late Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ). The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold two hearings in March, with the goal to introduce a bill for markup in April.

Support for MHK Legislation

Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power February 27, Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center director Belinda Batten urged the subcommittee to approve the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013 (S. 1419), saying that it is essential for creating a wave and tidal energy industry in the United States because it would help to commercialize the emerging technology by streamlining the regulatory process and reauthorizing the Department of Energy’s related research, development, and demonstration programs. She said that marine and hydrokinetic energy could provide between 13 and 19 percent of current electricity demand.

Renewable Energy Area Designation Sought

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) sent a letter February 28 to Interior Secretary Sally Jewel urging her to designate the Salton Sea Lands as a renewable energy development focus area. The previous day, the Interior Department and the Salton Sea Authority signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate and exchange technical and scientific information for development of a restoration plan for the area.

Legislation Introduced

  • Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) introduced legislation (H.R. 4076) February 26 to address shortages and interruptions in the availability of propane and other home heating fuels in the United States.
  • Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced legislation February 28 creating a $5,000 tax credit for purchasing energy efficient space or water heating or cooling appliances that use natural gas or biomass. The same day, he introduced legislation creating a loan guarantee pilot program for fuel distribution grid projects, including natural gas and biofuels.

Upcoming Hearings

  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing March 6 to consider the benefits of and challenges to energy access in the 21st century, with a specific focus on fuel supply and infrastructure.