The Week Ahead: Congress to Focus on Agency Budget Requests for FY 2016 Spending


On Feb. 25, House Energy and Commerce subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2016 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency.

As covered in a Feb. 2 article, the request for the agency includes a $451.8 million increase in funding from the current fiscal year and funding for its first staffing increase in five years.

The president's proposed spending plan would return EPA funding to levels from before the sequestration cuts were enacted in FY 2013. However, the small proposed increase in personnel isn’t expected to make a dent toward restoring staffing levels to the agency's earlier highs.

Also on Feb. 25, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the Department of Energy’s FY 2016 budget request. DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to testify.

As detailed in a Feb. 2 article, DOE would receive $29.9 billion, a $2.6 billion increase over current funding levels and $2 billion more than Obama requested for fiscal year 2015.

Like previous years' budgets, the request dramatically would increase funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency and other clean power technologies, while cutting money for the department's fossil fuel programs. In addition, it would make permanent and refundable the renewable energy production tax credit and make permanent the solar investment tax credit.

On Feb. 24, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine Obama's budget request for the Interior Department. DOI Secretary Sally Jewell will be the key witness.

As covered in a Feb. 2 article, the Obama administration is requesting $13.2 billion in funding for DOI. The total is 8 percent above the enacted level for 2015.

The request includes proposed increased fees for oil and gas companies to fund accelerated processing of permit requests and increased site inspections.

EPA to Hold E-Enterprise Webinars

The EPA will hold a webinar Feb. 23 on its E-Enterprise portal, a website aimed to promote cooperative environmental federalism with real-time data sharing between state and federal regulators.

As covered in a Jan. 23 article, once implemented, the EPA says the portal will make “transactions with environmental agencies as efficient and effective as possible” by providing “tools to help regulated entities understand their environmental obligations and associated permitting and reporting requirements and streamline their preparation and submittal of information.”

The Feb. 23 webinar will be geared toward regulated entities, and another is scheduled for March 5 for the public and other interested parties.  A webinar was held Feb. 19 for state and other regulators.

California Public Hearing on Agenda

The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee will begin a series of oversight hearings Feb. 25 in Sacramento to examine ways that the state can meet the goals of energy and climate legislation and actions CARB is taking.

As covered in a Feb. 10 article, California Senate Democrats introduced a four-bill package in February to carry out Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) proposal to go beyond existing climate policy goals by increasing renewable energy use and energy efficiency by 50 percent while reducing petroleum use by the same percentage.

The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources will hold public hearings Feb. 23 in Bakersfield and Feb. 25 in Salinas on a draft report that found the most significant environmental impacts of oil and gas well stimulation activities could be minimized under the state’s new regulations and proposed mitigation measures.

As covered in a Jan. 15 article, the draft report looks at potential greenhouse gas emissions, seismic impacts, cultural impacts, noise and vibration, visual impacts and other environmental risk areas.

Previously, hearings were held Feb. 18 in Oakland and Feb. 19 in Sacramento.

European Energy, Climate Actions

On Feb. 25, the European Commission is scheduled to publish an “energy union” plan that details  “concrete actions” that the EU should take to achieve a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 relative to 1990 and meet energy goals.

As detailed in a Jan. 28 article, EU leaders agreed to a broad outline of the European Union's 2030 decarbonization plan in October 2014. In addition to the 40 percent emissions reduction target, they said the EU should obtain 27 percent of its energy from renewable sources and achieve 27 percent energy efficiency savings relative to current business-as-usual projections by 2030.

On Feb. 24, the European Parliament Committee for Environment is scheduled to debate a cap on the production of crop-based biofuels and ways to employ land-use criteria to gauge their greenhouse gas impact.

As covered in a Feb. 18 article, the Parliament is recommending to cap crop-based biofuels at 6 percent under an EU 2020 target requiring that 10 percent of transportation fuel come from renewable sources.

A final vote is expected in the European Parliament General Assembly in May.

Other Energy, Climate Events

The Climate Leadership Conference will be held Feb. 23-25 in Washington. The conference, hosted by The Climate Registry, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the Association of Climate Change Officers, convenes around the “Climate Leadership Awards” ceremony, sponsored by the EPA.

The conference will feature many speakers from government, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and industry, including Mike Boots, acting chairman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Acting EPA Deputy Administrator Stanley Meiburg; and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will hold a briefing Feb. 25 in Washington on "The 2016 Budget: Impacts on Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy."

Speakers include Michael Carr, senior adviser and deputy assistant secretary for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Fred Sissine, energy policy specialist for the Congressional Research Service; and Scott Skalr, chairman of the steering committee for the Sustainable Energy Coalition and president of the Stella Group Ltd.

On Feb. 24, Melanie Kenderdine, director of the DOE Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, will be the featured speaker at a luncheon in Washington hosted by the Natural Gas Roundtable.

Resources for the Future will hold two seminars in the week ahead in Washington:

  • On Feb. 25-26, the seminar will be on “Assessing Progress under California’s AB 32 Cap-and-Trade Program: Carbon Pollution Reductions and Economic Growth.”
  • On Feb. 24, the seminar will focus on "What's Next for Climate Engineering?"

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