Energy’s Electrifying Senate Floor Dominance in the Week Ahead

VW car and sign

(Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg)

The Senate prepares this week to take up a $37.5 billion spending bill (H.R. 2028) for the nation’s energy and water programs, and could complete work on long-stalled, sweeping energy modernization legislation (S. 2012) after Democrats dropped their insistence on a vote on aid to Flint, Mich.

Away from Capitol Hill, 147 countries will gather in New York on Friday to formally sign onto the Paris Agreement. Both the U.S., represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, and China are expected to sign the agreement. It goes into effect once joined by at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

Here’s what else is happening this week:

Volkswagen: Volkswagen faces an April 21 deadline to provide a federal district court judge with a concrete proposal to address hundreds of thousands of over-emitting diesel vehicles that remain on the road despite the automaker’s September 2015 admission that they were outfitted with illegal technology known as defeat devices. While Volkswagen has begun recalling noncompliant diesels in Europe, the automaker has faced difficulties in gaining regulatory approval for a fix in the U.S., which has tougher emissions standards. An update is expected during a Thursday morning status conference in San Francisco before Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Nuclear Energy: It will be a busy week for nuclear energy on Capitol Hill this week. On Wednesday, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Energy Subcommittee gets an update on nuclear fusion technology, while two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees examine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s budget request for fiscal year 2017. Then, on Thursday, a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (S. 2795).

Heated EPA Field Hearing: On Friday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hold a hearing in Phoenix entitled Examining EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Indian Tribes. The top Republican and Democrat on the committee, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), authorized a subpoena of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy or Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus to ensure an agency provides a witness to the hearing. The EPA has offered Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld or Stanislaus for the hearing.

EPA Budget: A Senate Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to review the EPA’s budget request for fiscal year 2017. Administrator Gina McCarthy and Deputy Chief Financial Officer David Bloom will testify.

Pipeline Safety: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday will mark up the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016 (H.R.4937), which would reauthorize the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to mark up its own draft legislation sometime later this month.