The Week Ahead: State of the Union Scheduled, Sen. Boxer to Hold Climate Briefing


President Obama will give his State of the Union address Feb. 12, with many in the environmental arena expecting climate change to be included in his remarks.

As covered in a Jan. 22 Energy and Climate Reportarticle, Obama, in his inaugural speech, said the United States needs to address climate change, and that failure to do so would “betray our children and future generations.”

In the Senate, currently controlled by Democrats, an auditorium-style briefing on climate change will be held Feb. 13, showcasing four prominent climate scientists. A question-and-answer session will follow. Details of the briefing, which was arranged by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, are provided in a Feb. 7 article. Boxer invited all her Senate colleagues to participate in the briefing.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled House has shown much less enthusiasm about including climate change on its agenda. On Feb. 12, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will reconvene a business meeting to go over its two-year oversight plan. A Feb. 6 article covers a previous meeting during which Democrats on the committee were repeatedly rebuffed in their attempts to force Republicans to pledge support for holding hearings on climate change science over the next two years.

Instead the House committee plans to increase oversight of the Obama administration's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Plans also call for reviewing climate activities under the Energy Department and other departments, including those to prepare for and respond to weather events and natural disasters in the future.

The control of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act will fall under the purview of the new administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama has not yet nominated anyone for the post. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson officially will step down Feb. 14. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe will become the acting administrator. Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, and former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) also have been named as possible replacements.

Senate to Hold Hearing on Natural Gas

On Feb. 12 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider issues surrounding natural gas, including environmental implications, exports, and impacts on the economy. As detailed in a Feb. 5 article, the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, based on EPA reporting requirements, are power plants. The oil and natural gas production sector is a distant second.

Senators Featured on Panel Discussion

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking committee member, will participate in a panel discussion Feb. 13 hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on “U.S. Energy Policy: Priorities for the 113th Congress.” The CSIS event, titled “Realizing the Potential of U.S. Unconventional Natural Gas,” will include additional panels.

RGGI to Hold Stakeholder Webinar

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will hold a stakeholder webinar Feb. 11 to review its new model rule that includes a 45 percent reduction in the regional cap on carbon dioxide emissions. As covered in a Feb. 7 article, the new cap would limit emissions in the region to 91 million tons in 2014, instead of the 165 million-ton  cap set under the original agreement.

RGGI, which covers greenhouse gas emissions from large power plants, includes the six New England states, plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland. New Jersey, once part of RGGI, abandoned the initiative, as detailed in a July 27, 2012, article covering Gov. Chris Christie's (R) veto of legislation (S. 1322) that would have required the state to remain a member.

EPA Webinars on Agenda

On Feb. 12, EPA will hold a webinar on "Market Outlook and Innovations in Wind and Solar Power." The webinar will feature a presentation by Geronimo Energy, a utility-scale renewable energy developer based in Minnesota.

EPA Region 10 will host a webinar Feb. 12 on "Outreach Strategies to Promote Thoughtful Consumption." The webinar will feature representatives from Portland and Eugene, Ore., on trends in climate communications and tips for using social marketing strategies to make outreach campaigns more effective.

Other Climate, Sustainability Events

The Wilson Center will host an event Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C., on "Climate Change and Migration in Mexico: A Report Launch." According to the report Climate Change, Migration, and Security: Best-Practice Policy and Operational Options for Mexico, empirical work on “climate induced migration” suggests that more people are migrating from Mexico due to climate change. The report said that while such migration does not constitute a direct "hard" security threat, tensions in social or political systems could emerge or be exacerbated, with the most exposed systems being labor, water, food, energy supplies, and health. 

On Feb. 14, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will hold a free webinar on "Sustainability: The New Business Model Opportunities." The webinar will present findings of a new global study on how companies are realizing the benefits of sustainability. A Feb. 6 article provides more information on the study, The Innovation Bottom Line, which found that more than one-third of companies are reporting a profit from their sustainability efforts, a 23 percent increase from the previous year.