The Week Ahead: Obama to Give State of Union Address, House Committee to Vote on Power Plant Bill


Will President Barack Obama highlight clean energy and climate issues during his State of the Union address Jan. 28?

It appears likely. For example, Obama unveiled a Climate Action Plan in June 2013 for addressing climate change, laying out a timetable for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants for the first time and pledging action on a number of clean energy fronts. As covered in an Energy and Climate Reportarticle, Obama said, in releasing the plan, “The levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically. That's science, accumulated and reviewed over decades. As a president, as a father and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act.”

More recently, as covered in a Jan. 21 article, the White House briefed top Cabinet officials on a report, "Powering Forward: Presidential and Executive Agency Actions to Drive Clean Energy in America.” The report covers executive actions Obama could take using his existing authority to reduce regulatory barriers for clean energy and address climate change. 

House Committee to Vote on H.R. 3826

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to mark up and vote on the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826) during Jan. 27-28 sessions.

As detailed in a Jan. 14 article, H.R. 3826, introduced Jan. 9 by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, would halt the EPA greenhouse gas emission rules for new power  plants until carbon dioxide-reducing technologies—such as carbon capture and storage—are commercially demonstrated at six different sites for at least a year.

Also, the EPA's rules for existing plants could not go into effect under Whitfield's bill until Congress gives the go-ahead.

The committee is also scheduled to mark up and vote on the Better Buildings Act (H.R. 2126), which would require the General Services Administration to issue model leasing provisions to encourage investment in cost-effective energy efficiency measures.

Senate to Address Oil Export Ban, Nuclear Power, Critical Minerals

On Jan. 30, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the effects of lifting restrictions on crude oil exports. As detailed in a Jan. 16 article, the hearing comes on the heels of a white paper issued by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the panel's ranking Republican, supporting the removal of the 39-year-old crude oil ban either by administrative action or legislation.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold an oversight hearing Jan. 30 on "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and Other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety."

On Jan. 28, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the Critical Mineral Policy Act of 2013 (S. 1600). As covered in a blog, critical minerals are vital in the production of wind turbines, electric vehicle batteries, fuel cells and energy-efficient lighting. They are also important in the production of dozens of other high-tech products, like computers, cell phones and medical equipment.

CARB to Hold Workshop on Draft Climate Plan

The California Air Resources Board will hold a public workshop Jan. 27 in San Francisco on a draft "Safeguarding California Plan." As detailed in a December 2013 article, the draft plan outlines key actions needed to prepare the state for the long-term impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels, extreme heat and less snowpack and rain.

Other Energy, Climate Events

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is scheduled to give a keynote address Jan. 30 at the 14th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment in Arlington, Va. The theme for the conference, which runs Jan. 28-30, is "Building Climate Solutions."

The 2014 American Energy Summitwill be held Jan. 27-28, also in Arlington. The summit will focus on the billions of dollars being spent on new energy projects by federal, state and local governments as well as private industry.

The Edison Electric Institute and the American Bar Association will hold an event in Washington on "Greenhouse Gas Emissions Regulations for the Power Sector." Joe Goffman, senior counsel in the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, will give opening remarks.

On Jan. 28, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute will hold a briefing at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington on "Public Attitudes About Climate Change and Clean Energy." Joe Krosnick, a Stanford University professor and senior fellow for the Woods Institute for the Environment, and Phil Sharp, president of Resources for the Future, are the featured speakers. 

The Canada Institute, the Kennan Institute and the European Studies Program will host the launch of a new publication, "In Search of Arctic Energy," Jan. 29 in Washington. The paper covers the implications that Arctic energy exploration will have for the region and the world's energy economy.

On Jan. 29, Resources for the Future will hold a panel discussion in Washington on "Considering the Contributions of Forests in the Management of Greenhouse Gas Emissions." Panelists include David A. Cleaves, climate change adviser for the U.S. Forest Service; William Stewart, cooperative extension forestry specialist at the University of California, Berkeley; and Robert Malmsheimer, professor at New York State University's College of Environmental Science and Forestry.