As anticipated, Congress remains at a standstill regarding the passage of an acceptable stop-gap funding resolution that will temporarily keep the government working when the deadline expires at midnight on September 30. At this time, it looks like a government shutdown is imminent, with the Senate expected to return on Monday and reject the House’s most recent version of House Joint Resolution 59 that would temporarily fund the government, but would delay the 2010 health care overhaul (the Affordable Care Act) for a year and repeal the law's medical device tax. Last Friday, the Senate, as anticipated, struck the language that would have defunded the President’s health care plan, before sending it back to the House for passage. Similar to last week, congressional agenda schedules are tied around the government’s current fiscal situation.
Along a somewhat similar vein, the House, did not, as expected, release and consider debt ceiling legislation. House leaders chose to delay consideration of the measure pending resolution of the Fiscal Year 2014 funding situation. The debt ceiling bill was anticipated to include, as previously reported, a litany of energy-related provisions. The current House debt limit plan extends the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling until December 31, 2014, allowing the Department of the Treasury to borrow approximately $1 trillion. The President has indicated that he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling.
Ronald Binz’s Nomination to Be Likely Withdrawn This Week
Amidst the controversy surrounding his nomination, Washington insiders anticipate that Binz, the President’s current nominee to Chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will see his name withdrawn early this upcoming week. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is required to release its upcoming agenda early in the week, meaning that Binz’s nomination will likely be withdrawn prior to that. Sources continue to speculate on a number of replacement nominees, including current FERC officials.
IPCC Summary Report Released; Concludes that Human Activity Causes Climate Change
With the final draft of a broader Working Group report to be released this upcoming week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) late last week released its initial summary, which concluded that it was “extremely likely” that the primary cause of climate change is human activity. Scientists involved in the last IPCC report, released in 2007, found human activity to be a “very likely” the cause of climate change. Predictably, supporters and opponents of climate change-related activity used the conclusions of the summary report to buttress their positions on the issue, with climate change activity proponents calling for action and naysayers suggesting the panel largely ignored “the fifteen-year pause in temperature increases…” Elsewhere, Environment and Public Works (EPW) Chair, Senator Boxer (D-CA), intends to hold a climate change hearing in October focused on a number of climate change related actions including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently re-proposed New Source Performance Standard for new sources; the IPCC report will likely come up in the context of the EPW hearing.
Other Items of Interest:
- House Opponents of EPA Carbon Emission Standards for New Power Plants Take Action. West Virginia House Republican McKinley introduced last week a Congressional Review Act (CRA) Disapproval Resolution (HJ Resolution 64) in order to nullify EPA’s recent proposal to cut carbon emission standards from new facilities. The measure, which includes 38 co-sponsors (37 Republicans and 1 Democrat), has sparked predictable controversy and there is some question regarding whether a CRA is even applicable to proposed, as compared to final, rules. Procedurally, and as reported in last week’s Washington Energy Update, a rule can be nullified if both congressional chambers of Congress were to adopt such a disapproval resolution by a simple majority vote. Realistically, enactment of a CRA resolution will not occur given the current make up of the Congress, and Congress’s inability to override a certain Presidential veto, were such a CRA to make it to the President’s desk. A CRA resolution of disapproval has only been adopted once since its inception. On the Senate side, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY), who has indicated he would file a CRA resolution of disapproval in his efforts to nullify the EPA proposal, also continues to work to seek co-sponsors.
- Stakeholder Activity Continues on Upcoming Proposal for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Power Plants. In other carbon reduction news for utilities – state officials, energy company executives and environmental group representatives participated in a forum last week at the Bipartisan Policy Center. The represented parties appeared to agree with the need for the Agency to provide sufficient flexibility in its upcoming rule from existing power plant facilities. Specifically, this flexibility would provide states with the discretion to either meet the Agency’s potential requirements through the enforcement of emission caps for units or through the calculation of an average, which could also include energy efficiency improvements or energy demand reductions. Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, gave the keynote speech reaffirming the President’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals for 2020, but offering little in the way of detail regarding the standards for existing facilities.
- Shaheen-Portman on Life Support. Consideration of S. 1392, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, sponsored by Sens. Shaheen (D-NH) and Portman (R-OH), has been indefinitely postponed. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Wyden (D-OR) has indicated his intention to pursue the bill’s consideration.
- House Hearing on “The North American Energy Infrastructure Act.” The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on October 2 focused on the discussion draft bill introduced by full Committee Chairman Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Green (D-TX). This legislation will require approval for the construction and operation of oil or gas pipelines and electric transmission facilities within U.S. boundaries for the import or export of oil, gas, or electricity to or from the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.