The Week Ahead: Climate, Energy Issues Expected to Gain Renewed Interest Following Presidential Inauguration


With the inauguration of President Obama Jan. 20 and the start of the 113th Congress, the spotlight will likely grow on whether the United States will increase its focus on climate change.

In his inaugural speech, Obama once again renewed his commitment to address climate change, saying, "Failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." 

As outlined in a World Climate Change Report 2013 Outlook article on U.S. climate legislation, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both pledged action on climate change in the days following the November elections, which appeared to give new life to several approaches, from modest bills to bolster energy efficiency and renewable energy to the possible resurrection of a proposal to tax the carbon content of fuel.

However, with Republicans maintaining control of the House though 2014, observers do not expect passage of any broad climate legislation.

Also in the week ahead, as reported in a Jan. 17 article, Energy Secretary Steven Chu may possibly announce his resignation. If so, his replacement will face scrutiny over federal funding for energy projects, with automatic federal spending cuts set to take effect March 1, and a six-moth continuing resolution that funded federal agencies at fiscal 2012 levels set to expire March 27.

Chu's anticipated resignation comes on the heels of announcements by Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, that they will step down from their posts. Obama has yet to nominate their succesors.

House Committee to Hold Meeting

On Jan. 22, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold an organizational meeting for the 113th Congress, including formal appointments of subcommittee leadership positions. As detailed in a Nov. 28, 2012, article, two new subcommittee chairmen will be formally appointed by returning chair Fred Upton (R-Mich).

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) will chair the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. Terry will replace Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), who lost her re-election bid. Upton also named Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) to chair the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Murphy will succeed Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who was defeated in his party's primary.

The chairmen of the other four subcommittees will remain the same as the 112th Congress: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will continue to lead the Communications and Technology Subcommittee; Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) will chair the Energy and Power Subcommittee; Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) will chair the Environment and Economy Subcommittee; and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) will continue to lead the Health Subcommittee.

 CARB Board to Meet

On Jan. 24 and Jan. 25 the California Air Resources Board will hold public meetingsin Bakersfield and Diamond Bar, respectively, to discuss air pollution control measures, the status of greenhouse gas reductions from passenger vehicles in the San Joaquin Valley, and a report of the board's program priorities for 2013.

According to the agenda, the staff will recommend that CARB maintain its current greenhouse gas reduction targets for passenger vehicles of five percent in 2020 and 10 percent in 2035 on an aggregate valley-wide basis. In addition to San Joaquin, the valley covers Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties.

As covered in a 2013 outlook article, CARB's top climate change issues are expected to be the first compliance period for the state's cap-and-trade program, continued implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), transportation and sustainable community plans, and legal challenges to the low-carbon fuel program. 

EU Regulatory Panel to Vote

The EU Climate Change Committee is expected to vote Jan. 23 on a number of technical changes to the functioning of the registry of emission allowances that underpins the EU Emissions Trading System for greenhouse gas emissions, which has been affected by low prices because of a surplus of carbon allowances. As detailed in a Jan. 11 article, the changes include revisions to governing rules regarding the use of emission credits and clarification of rules on the use of allowances.

The third phase of the ETS began Jan. 1 and runs through 2020. The major changes in the third phase include a single, EU-wide cap on emissions in place of the previous system of 27 national caps; auctioning, and not free allocation, as the default method for allocating allowances; and the addition of more sectors and gases. During the third phase, the overall cap on emissions will decrease by 1.74 percent per year.

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

The World Economic Forum will hold its annual meeting Jan. 23-27 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. As covered in a Jan. 8 article, WEF released a report saying that rising greenhouse gas emissions and water supply crises are expected to be two of the top global risks likely to occur in the next decade.

Severe income disparity is seen by experts as the top risk most likely to occur in the next 10 years, according to WEF'sGlobal Risks 2013 report. Failure to adapt to climate change is seen as the environmental risk with the greatest potential impact over the next decade, according to the report. Failure is defined as governments and businesses not enforcing or enacting effective measures to protect populations and assist businesses impacted by climate change.

EPA, USGS Webinars

EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities program will hold a webinar Jan. 23 to provide an introduction to the program's climate change adaptation planning process and tools and resources available to the water sector. Utility representatives and city and county officials told lawmakers last year that wastewater treatment and drinking water providers need significant financial assistance to prepare their infrastructure for the impacts of climate change.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Geological Survey's National Climate Change and Wildlife Center will hold a webinar on "Climate Smart Communities: Climate Action Planning."  The presentation will be given by the center's chief scientist Shawn Carter.

Wilson Center Event

On Jan. 25, the Wilson Center will host an event in Washington, D.C., on "The Year Ahead in Environment and Energy." Bloomberg BNA's director of Environmental News, John Sullivan, will present an overview of the key legislative, regulatory, and legal developments expected in 2013. A panel discussion will follow.