The Week Ahead: The Keystone Pipeline Looms Large in Senate, House to Hold Hearing on Coal Ash


A final Senate vote is expected the week of Jan. 19 on legislation (S. 1)  that would approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

On Jan. 9, the House passed a companion bill on a 266-153 vote, falling short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto threat the Obama administration formally announced Jan. 7.

As covered in a Jan. 14 Energy and Climate Report article, in voting on S. 1, Senate Republicans may face a tough decision as Democrats seek to use amendments to put the chamber on record as supporting the scientific link between climate change and human activity.

Other amendments readied by Democrats would seek to minimize the environmental impacts associated with methane emissions from oil and gas extraction activities on federal lands and regulate petroleum coke as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has agreed to allow a handful of amendments thus far on the Keystone bill, but as of the week of Jan. 12, no decision had been made on allowing debate and votes on the climate amendments.

Amendments McConnell is expected to allow to be brought to the floor this week include measures that would bar the export of oil and refined products from the Keystone pipeline and increase energy efficiency in federal buildings.

Republican senators, meanwhile, have filed amendments seeking to reduce regulatory burdens and roll back environmental requirements. They include proposals to overhaul the Endangered Species Act and bar federal agencies from taking greenhouse gas emissions into account in environmental impact reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

House Hearing on Coal Ash

On Jan. 22, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing on “The EPA’s 2014 Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities.”

As detailed in a Dec. 19 article, the Environmental Protection Agency announced standards for the management and disposal of coal ash under the nonhazardous waste provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

In announcing the hearing, Republicans said that they welcomed the EPA’s decision to rely on RCRA’s nonhazardous waste provisions, but they are concerned that the rule does not provide the “certainty that job creators need.”

Connecticut to Hold Hearing

On Jan. 22, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing in New Britain on its draft Integrated Resource Plan.

As covered in a Jan. 12 article, the draft shows that pursuit of renewable energy programs by the state is yielding less expensive, cleaner energy. A final resource plan is scheduled to be released in March.

CARB to Hold Workshop

The California Air Resources Board will hold its second public workshop Jan. 23 in Sacramento on the development of its Low Carbon Transportation Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Investments Program and its Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Funding Plan for the Air Quality Improvement Program (AQIP).

The Low Carbon Transportation program seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with an emphasis on investments that benefit disadvantaged communities. Proceeds from state cap-and-trade auctions help to fund the program.

AQIP is a voluntary, mobile source incentive program that focuses on reducing criteria pollutant and diesel particulate emissions with concurrent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

FHWA Webinar

The Federal Highway Administration will hold a webinar Jan. 22 on tools, resources and lessons learned from its Gulf Coast 2 Study, “Assessing Transportation System Vulnerability to Climate Change.”

As detailed in a Jan. 9 article, the study provides a comprehensive evaluation of transportation-related climate vulnerabilities in Mobile, Ala. FHWA used the Mobile metropolitan area as a pilot to develop and test a screening approach to identify which assets could be considered more likely to be vulnerable to future climate conditions.

Other Energy, Climate Events

The United State Energy Association will hold its 11th Annual State of the Energy Industry Forum Jan. 21 at the National Press Club in Washington. Speakers include the presidents and CEOs of the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufactures, Interstate Natural Gas Association of American, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Edison Electric Institute, National Mining Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, American Public Power Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, Electric Power Supply Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Electric Power Research Institute.

On Jan. 22, ICF International will host an event at the National Press Club on “Power Plant Retirements—A Threat to Reliability?” The featured speaker will be Thomas Burgess, vice president of the North American Electric Reliability Corp.

Also on Jan. 22, the Environmental Law Institute will hold an event in Washington on “Climate Negotiations Debrief: What do the Lima results mean for the world, a future agreement, and business?”  Speakers include Sue Biniaz, the State Department’s lead climate change attorney;  Annie Petsonk, international counsel for climate and air for the Environmental Defense Fund; and  Norine Kennedy, vice president of energy and environmental affairs for the U.S. Council for International Business. 

ELI will also host an event Jan. 23 in Washington on “The Year Ahead on Energy and the Environment.” Larry Pearl, director of environmental news for Bloomberg BNA, will present Bloomberg’s Environmental Outlook 2015, which will be followed by a panel discussion.

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