Legislative Activity

Senate EPW Committee Holds Hearing on Fugitive Methane Gas Leaks

Last Tuesday, November 5, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing titled “Fugitive Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Operations.” During the hearing, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) director of atmospheric programs in the Office of Air and Radiation, Ms. Sarah Dunham, discussed the agency’s record in promulgating standards in August of 2012 to limit fugitive methane emissions for oil and gas operations, but refused to commit to a regulatory path forward for standards to govern methane leaks directly at drilling wells. Republican committee members cast doubt on whether such regulations are necessary, and were joined by private sector witnesses that concluded current self-regulatory models already in place provide sufficient protection.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Federal Building Efficiency Legislation

Last Tuesday, November 5, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) introduced S. 1652, the “Utility Energy Service Contracts Improvement Act of 2013,” in an effort to provide federal agencies authority to “enter into long-term contracts with utilities for energy saving services” which the sponsors hope will provide agencies flexible options to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs for operating federal buildings.

This Week’s Hearings

  • Thursday, November 14: the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “EPA’s Proposed GHG Standards for New Power Plants.” EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, is expected to testify.
  • Thursday, November 14: the House Science Committee will hold a hearing titled “Strengthening Transparency and Accountability within the Environmental Protection Agency.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is expected to testify.
  • Thursday, November 14: the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider President Barack Obama’s pending nominations for Mr. Christopher A. Smith to serve as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Fossil Energy and Stephen A. Crowley to serve as General Counsel for the Department of Energy.

Regulatory Activity

DOE Announces CCS Project Funding Awards

Last Thursday, November 7, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it will provide $84 million for 18 projects to reduce the cost of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies for new and existing power plants. In a statement accompanying the release of the awards, Secretary Ernest J. Moniz noted that the awards are necessary because “coal and other fossil fuels still provide 80 percent of [U.S.] energy, 70 percent of our electricity, and will be a major part of our energy future for decades . . . That’s why any serious effort to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change must also include developing, demonstrating and deploying the technologies to use our abundant fossil fuel resources as cleanly as possible.”

EPA Holds DC Listening Session for GHG Standards at Existing Power Plants

Last Thursday, November 7, the EPA conducted a listening session at the agency’s headquarters to receive public comments on the agency’s anticipated proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions at existing power plants. The EPA heard testimony from at least 175 members of the public, including stakeholders ranging from the American Chemistry Council, the Clean Air Task Force, the Consumer Energy Alliance, and the American Petroleum Institute, which provided commentary on issues ranging from the agency’s legal authority to promulgate rules to the economic impact that such rules might impose on local communities. Additionally, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) provided comment and criticized the EPA for not holding a listening session in Kentucky.