The Week Ahead: Senate Plans to Finish Spending Bill, House to Hold Hearing on EPA's Scientific Advisory Process


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to end debate March 18 on a fiscal year 2013 spending bill that may include a number of environment-related amendments.

As detailed in a March 14 Energy and Climate Report article, the Senate is working on the Appropriations Committee's substitute amendment to the House-passed H.R. 933, which covers federal spending for the rest of fiscal 2013.

Among the amendments that may be included in the Senate's bill is one that would cut military spending on alternative energy research and the purchase of advanced biofuels. Other amendments would promote the use of natural gas and petroleum development and express the sense of the Senate that federal agencies should take "all possible actions" to limit federal fiscal exposure to climate change.

In a related matter, as covered in a March 14 article, the Senate may bring to the floor a 10-year spending resolution in the week ahead that calls for increased funding for land conservation, energy efficiency, environmental programs, and measures to address climate change.

The budget resolution by the Democratically controlled Senate would not be binding on appropriators but is intended to be a broad road map to contrast tax and federal spending views held by the Republican-controlled House.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled his own 10-year budget resolution last week calling for cuts in environmental spending and completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

House to Hold Hearings on DOE, EPA, Mining

On March 19, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on funding for environmental management at the Department of Energy. DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Dave Huizenga is scheduled to testify.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing March 20 on "Improving the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Process."

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a legislative oversight hearing March 21 on "America's Mineral Resources: Creating Mining and Manufacturing Jobs and Securing America."

Among the bills to be discussed is the "Resource Assessment of Rare Earths Act of 2013" (H.R. 981). Rare earth minerals are important to the green tech industry in the production of wind turbines, electric vehicle batteries, fuel cells, and energy-efficient lighting.

Carper to Host Climate Change Symposium 

On March 18, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) will host a climate change symposium at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., to review "common sense" policy options under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

EPA proposed a new source performance standard April 13, 2012, that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil fuel-fire power plants to no more than 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour. Under the Clean Air Act, the agency must finalize the standards within one year and initiate rulemaking for existing power plants.

However, as detailed in a Feb. 27 article, Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to becom EPA Administrator, would not commit to meeting the deadline, nor do observers expect it to be met. Also, no timetable is in sight for agency rulemaking for greenhouse gas emission limits for existing plants.

EPA to hold Public Hearing on RINs

On March 19, EPA will hold a public hearing in Washington, D.C., on its proposed voluntary quality assurance program for identification numbers assigned to batches of renewable fuel as part of volume requirements for the nation's transportation fuel supply.

As detailed in a Jan. 31 article, the proposed rule would establish qualifications for third-party auditors who would determine the validity of renewable identification numbers, or RINs.

The quality assurance proposal comes after EPA issued notices of violation to several fuel companies that allegedly sold 140 million fraudulent RINs in 2010 and 2011. As a result, 30 refiners and other companies reached a settlement with EPA in April 2012 in which they agreed to pay approximately $3.65 million in penalties after they purchased the fraudulent credits.

CARB to Hold Board Meeting

On March 21, the California Air Resources Board will hold a public hearing to discuss several items, including research plans, environmental justice issues, and funding for air quality programs. CARB staff also will provide an update on Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) executive order (B-16-2012) on the state's zero emissions vehicle (ZEVs) program.

As detailed in a Feb. 13 article, in response to the executive order issued in 2012, the California Office of Planning and Research released a plan to put 1.5 million ZEVs on the state's roads by 2025. The plan also includes requirements for urban areas to provide infrastructure to support hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids.

European Council Vote Expected

The European Council of Ministers is expected to approve a regulation March 21 to provide a framework for cross-border energy infrastructure networks, including electricity grids and pipelines.

The regulation, as detailed in a March 13 article, is expected to shorten the permit process for energy infrastructure from 12 years to a maximum of three and a half years. It also is intended to help the bloc meet a goal to have renewable energy sources satisfy 20 percent of overall EU energy consumption by 2030. The regulation will take effect as soon as it is published in the EU Official Journal.

EPA Webinars on Agenda

On March 21, EPA will hold webinar on "Climate Change Adaptation for State and Local Governments: Achieving Buy-In for Adaptation."

EPA's Green Power Partnership will hold a webinar March 20 on "The Solar Roadmap: Navigating the Evolving Solar Energy Market."

Other Climate, Energy Events

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will hold a briefing March 18 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on "Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Communities of Color and Tribal Nations."

The Environmental Law Institute will hold a conference March 22 at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on "A Showcase of Innovative Environmental Law and Policy Issues." The conference will feature a session on "The Limits of Liability in Promoting Safe Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide."

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies will hold its annual water policy conference March 17-March 20 in Washington, D.C. On March 18, Kathy Jacobs, director of the National Climate Assessment, will give a presentation on water resources.

A draft of the National Climate Assessmentwas released Jan. 11 and is expected to be finalized by Jan. 20, 2014. A national assessment on climate science and climate change impacts is due to Congress every four years under the Global Change Research Act of 1990. However, only two reports have been completed since the law passed, one in 2000 and the other in 2009.