The Week Ahead: Energy Budget, Coal Ash, Rail Transportation Among Top Issues in Congress

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development will hold a hearing March 25 on the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for the Department of Energy. DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz and Franklin Orr, DOE's undersecretary for Science and Energy, will testify.

As covered in a Feb. 2 Energy and Climate Report article, the Energy Department would receive $29.9 billion under the budget request, a $2.6 billion increase over current funding levels and $2 billion more than President Barack Obama requested for fiscal year 2015.

Like previous year’s 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.

Coal Ash Hearing

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing  March 24 on “The Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act.

Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, will testify.


As detailed Dec. 19 article, the EPA released the first final federal standards for the management of coal ash under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, subjecting the material to nonhazardous waste regulations.

State environmental regulators and utilities back the draft coal ash legislation, which in part, is intended to ensure that it will never be regulated as a hazardous waste. Environmentalists have voiced strong opposition, claiming the bill would eliminate, weaken and delay protections established in the final rule.

Senate to Consider Rail Bills

On March 25, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing to, among other things, consider the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 808) and  the Railroad Safety and Positive Train Control Act (S. 650).

As covered in a March 19 article, Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D) said lawmakers may push to have the reauthorization bill include language overhauling the Surface Transportation Board and the environmental review process for rail projects.

As covered in a March 5 article, S. 650 would give railroads an additional five years to install anti-collision safety systems.

NRC Budget Hearing

On March 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 2016 budget request.

NRC Chairman Stephen Burns will testify, along with the commissioners Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff and Jeff Baran.

Other Energy, Climate Events

On March 26, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will speak on coal, hydraulic fracturing, climate change and economic growth at the Wall Street Journal's conference on “ECO:nomics: Creating Environmental Capital” in  Santa Barbara, Calif. The event, which will be held March 25-27 also will feature former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who is now with vice president of environmental initiatives for Apple. She will also speak Marc 26.

Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz will speak March 24 at an event in Washington sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center on “A Look Back on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future."

The Federal Highway Administration will hold the first of a series of webinars March 24 on pilot projects aimed at making transportation projects resilient to extreme weather and climate change.

As covered in a March 2 article, the pilot projects cover seven geographic areas, including San Francisco, Chicago, the Gulf Coast, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Additional webinars will be held April 7, April 23, April 28 and May 5.

The Environmental Law Institute will hold a discussion March 24 in Washington on “Implications of EPA's Coal Ash Rule on Regulated Entities and the Environment.”

Tom Mounteer, a partner with Paul Hastings LLP will moderate a discussion between Douglas Green, a partner with Venable LLP, and Lisa Widawsky Hallowell, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project.

The 2015 Building Energy Summit will be held March 25 in Washington.

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