Executive Branch Activity

Executive Order — Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

On Friday, President Obama issued an Executive Order intended to help states and local communities address the impacts of severe weather resulting from climate change. The Order addresses the potential for incentives to local communities to make investments to combat climate change. The Order also instructs the creation of an inventory of changes to federal agencies’ “land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations to make the Nation’s watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them, more resilient in the face of a changing climate.” In addition, the Order establishes a Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience comprised of major federal agencies and related entities to coordinate with states and local governments.

Legislative Activity

Introduction of Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013

Last week, Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Members Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013. The bipartisan bill, which attracted nearly equal numbers of Democrat and Republican cosponsors, aims to improve critical minerals policy in the United States while maintaining environmental standards. The legislation would likely address critical metals, such as copper, nickel and precious metals vital to the manufacture of computers, communication devices and green technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric and hybrid automobiles. The legislation would direct the Departments of Interior and Agriculture and the National Academies of Sciences to provide recommendations to improve the quality and timeliness of decisions and inspection and enforcement of hardrock mining on federal lands. The legislation would also require the Department of Energy to facilitate recycling of critical minerals and research alternatives to existing critical mineral commodities. The bill, having been introduced by both the Committee’s Chairman and Ranking Member, is likely to receive a hearing in the near future.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, November 5: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources, will hold a hearing titled “Shortchanging Our Forests:  How Tight Budgets and Management Decisions Can Increase the Risk of Wildfire.” Jim Hubbard, the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, will testify. Senators will also hear testimony from Colorado business representatives from wildfire-impacted areas.
  • Tuesday, November 5: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight, will hold a hearing to examine methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Sarah Durham, Director of the Office of Atmospheric Programs, Office of Air and Radiation of the Environmental Protection Agency, will testify.
  • Wednesday, November 6: The Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations and the District of Columbia, will hold a hearing titled “One Year Later: Examining the Ongoing Recovery From Hurricane Sandy.”  The hearing will focus on gaps that may need to be addressed in disaster relief programs across the country.

Regulatory Activity

Green Infrastructure Funding

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced funding to six communities in Rhode Island, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana, Arizona and South Carolina to improve green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and impacts of climate change. “Green infrastructure” is considered by the EPA to include “green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems.” Over the past two years, EPA has awarded funding for green infrastructure to more than 20 communities. These awards are a component of EPA’s green infrastructure program.

Temperature and Flow in Wadeable Streams

The EPA has released for public comment the draft report titled ‘‘Best Practices for Continuous Monitoring of Temperature and Flow in Wadeable Streams.” The document, prepared by the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) within EPA’s Office of Research and Development, describes best practices for the deployment of continuous temperature and flow sensors in wadeable streams. Public comment on the draft report is due by December 2.