Legislative Activity

Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on Energy Infrastructure Legislation

Last Tuesday, October 29, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing to review the North American Energy Infrastructure Act (H.R. 3301), legislation that seeks to eliminate the State Department’s authority to approve an energy infrastructure project and delegate that responsibility to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Energy, or the Department of Commerce, depending on the nature of the project. While the legislation enjoys bipartisan support from Republicans and a group of Democrat lawmakers with an interest in cross-border energy infrastructure development, debate around the bill was driven largely along partisan lines between those who support development of the Keystone XL Pipeline and those who oppose it. The Department of Commerce and FERC criticized the bill for a variety of reasons, and the FERC aggressively criticized the legislation’s intent to limit agencies’ review period, which the commission argued will not provide sufficient time for the government to analyze public comment.

Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing on Impact of EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Last Tuesday, October 29, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing “to examine impacts of EPA’s regulatory agenda on America’s coal communities.”  The hearing coincided with a high-profile rally organized by advocacy organizations aligned with the coal production community, and featured testimony from local government officials, members of the coal production community, and former local officials aligned with the coal production industry – in addition to a member of “Boilermakers Local 154,” a union in Pennsylvania that represents employees in the energy industry throughout the State.

Science Committee Hearing on Feasibility of Carbon Capture Sequestration Technology

Last Tuesday, October 22, the House Science Committee held a hearing titled “EPA Power Plant Regulations: Is the Technology Ready?” The hearing sought to evaluate the EPA’s proposed rule governing greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, with a specific focus on the feasibility of carbon capture sequestration (CCS) technology. During the hearing Mr. Charles McConnell, who formerly served as the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for fossil energy, concluded that CCS technology is not a feasible option for most private sector applications: “The cost of current CO2 capture technology is much too high to be commercially viable.”

This Week’s Hearings

  • Tuesday, November 5: the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing titled “Fugitive Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Operations.”

Regulatory Activity

President Obama Issues Climate Change Executive Order

Last Friday, November 1, President Obama issued an executive order designed to “prepare the Nation for the impacts of climate change by undertaking actions to enhance climate preparedness and resilience.” The order seeks to mitigate the impact of climate change by requiring federal agencies to promote: information sharing at all levels of government; “risk-informed decision-making”; adaptive learning; and preparedness planning. The order also establishes a Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, and requires federal agencies to take a series of actions in coordination with the council to, among other tasks, identify and remove barriers to increase American resilience to climate change, reform federal policies and funding programs that increase vulnerability of U.S. institutions to the impact of climate change, and identify opportunities to encourage investments in “climate-resilient” infrastructure and technology.

Treasury Department Issues Guidance on International Coal Project Financing

Last Tuesday, October 29, the Treasury Department issued a policy document that provides guidance regarding the federal government’s criteria for U.S. investment in overseas energy projects. The document provides additional detail regarding implementation of the President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, released earlier this year in June, which announced an end to U.S. investment in new overseas coal projects except in very narrow circumstances in the developing world. The policy document formally adopted that aspect of the Climate Action Plan for multilateral development banks (MDBs), and among other items, requires the MDBs that engage in development assistance programming with foreign entities to seek out opportunities to “remove barriers to and build demand for no or low carbon resources.”