The Week Ahead: Keystone Headed to House Floor; Hydropower, Natural Gas on Senate Agenda


House Republican leaders plan to bring a bill to fast-track the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to the floor for a vote the week of May 20 before Congress heads home for its Memorial Day recess.

As covered in a May 16 Energy and Climate Reportarticle, the Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3) would eliminate the need for President Obama to approve construction of the northern segment of the $7 billion pipeline to carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to Texas.

Many Democrats argue that the bill would effectively allow TransCanada, the company set to build and maintain the pipeline, to skirt environmental laws.

Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate March 14 (S. 582), but it has yet to move forward.

Senate Action Expected on Hydropower

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he plans to get four bills to facilitate the development of small hydropower projects to the Senate floor by May 24.

As detailed in a May 8 article, the Senate bills—the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (S. 306) and the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (S. 545)—were passed by the committee by a voice vote with no opposition after being amended to align with a pair of bills that previously passed the House by wide margins. The two House companion bills (H.R. 678 and H.R. 267) also were reported favorably by the Senate committee.

Obama administration officials have expressed broad support for the intent of the four bills but have questioned certain provisions that would expedite the regulatory review process.

 Senate to Hold Natural Gas Forums

The last two of three natural gas forums will be held May 21 and 23 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

During the first forum, as covered in a May 14 article, Wyden said the sessions are intended to hear from as many stakeholders as possible before moving legislation to take advantage of the shale gas boom. However, he discouraged any speculation that there would be a bill anytime soon. 

The first forum focused on ways to increase the use of natural gas in the vehicle transportation sector, remove barriers to building more interstate pipelines, and other issues, such as increased reliance on natural gas for electricity generation.

The May 21 forum will cover liquefied natural gas exports and supply and demand issues. The May 23 forum will focus on hydraulic fracturing and other environmental issues that could limit development of shale gas.

European Commission to Discuss Energy Issues

The European Commission will hold a summit May 22 in Brussels to discuss, among other issues, energy efficiency and the European Union's energy reform package, which calls for a single market for gas and electricity to allow consumers to choose among different suppliers.

In a news release about the summit, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said "considerable differences in energy prices" have been created across the European Union by a fragmented energy market and a failure to implement energy efficiency measures.

State Department to Hold Briefings

The State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs will hold a telephone briefing May 20 on "Opportunities in the Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Environmental Market in the Philippines." According to the department, energy costs in the Philippines are among the highest in Asia and the country is looking to increase its use of liquefied natural gas and renewable energy.

On May 21, the bureau will hold a telephone briefing on "Building Dubai's Dream: Infrastructure Opportunities for U.S. Companies." According to the department, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is expected to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects to enable its growth plans, which include bids to hold the World Exposition in 2020 and the Olympics in 2024.

For example, the department said the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority will open the bidding process this summer for the second phase of its Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park. Also, billions of dollars are forecasted to be spent on power generation, power grid, and water projects.

Other Climate, Energy Events

The Global Reporting Initiative is scheduled to release its fourth version of guidelines, or G4, May 22 to coincide with its May 22-24 "Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting" in Amsterdam. The next version of GRI's reporting standards, the world's most commonly used sustainability standards, will require companies to disclose environmental and social performance data that they consider material to their business.

On May 22, Resources for the Future will host an event in Washington, D.C., titled  "A North American Approach to Climate Change: Linking Quebec and California." The featured speaker will be Yves-Francois Blanchet, Quebec's minister of sustainable development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute will hold a briefing May 20 in Washington, D.C., on "EPA's FOIA Scandals: 'Richard Windsor,' Gina McCarthy, and the Abuse of Power." According to CEI, the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to reply to its Freedom of Information Act requests seeking information on the Obama administration's climate change agenda. Agency detractors allege former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an alias—Richard Windsor—in emails to conduct official business. McCarthy's nomination to head EPA is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.