If Congress fails to reach a deal by March 1 to prevent automatic federal spending cuts, vital environmental and energy programs would be jeopardized, according to Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department heads.

The cuts—also known as sequestration—would require federal defense and non-defense agencies to spread reductions of about $85 billion out evenly across government programs.

As detailed in a Feb. 12 Energy and Climate Reportarticle, an EPA memo signed by Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe said that in addition to furloughing employees, the cuts would result in curtailed spending on contracts or cuts to "vital programs." 

A Feb. 14 article covers remarks written by DOE Secretary Steven Chu in a memo to a Senate committee stating, "The effects of sequestration are particularly damaging because, by law, they apply equally to each program, project, and activity within an account, thereby severely constraining our ability to prioritize and make tradeoffs among activities under reduced funding scenarios." He added that the budget cuts would "decelerate the nation's transition into a clean energy economy."

Also, Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said sequestration would slow the development of oil, gas, and coal on federal land by curtailing the processing of permits, among other things, in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

Senator to Testify at House Energy Hearing

On Feb. 26, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power on "American Energy Security and Innovation: An Assessment of Private-Sector Successes and Opportunities in Energy Efficient Technologies."

As detailed in a Feb. 4 article, Murkowski released an energy blueprint with about 200 policy recommendations, which she hopes will provide the basis for bipartisan energy legislation in the 113th Congress. 

Industry Groups Petition Supreme Court

Also on Feb. 26, the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment will hold a hearing on "Mid-Level Ethanol Blends: Consumer and Technical Research Needs." According to EPA and DOE, mid-level blends contain between 15-20 percent ethanol.

As detailed in a Feb. 21 article, the American Petroleum Institute and food groups, who oppose use of E-15, are taking their fight to the Supreme Court over its production and sale, after a lower court did not rule in their favor.

Other Climate, Energy Events

DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will hold its annual summit Feb. 25-27 in Washington, D.C. The DOE division is charged with funding the research and development of highly experimental clean energy technologies that would be unlikely to receive backing from the private sector.

The "2013 Climate Leadership Conference," runs Feb. 27-March 1 in Washington, D.C. It is hosted by The Climate Registry, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and the Association of Climate Change Officers, with EPA as the event's headline sponsor. Bloomberg BNA also is among the sponsors.

Also in Washington, D.C., the Geothermal Energy Association will hold an industry briefing Feb. 26 on the “State of Geothermal Energy.”