Legislative Activity

House Schedules “Energy Week” for Legislative Debate

This week, the House Republican leadership has planned a thematic “energy week” to organize legislative debate on the floor. The House will consider three rules bills and several non-controversial bills under suspension of the rules. The three rules bills include: (1)  H.R.3826, the “Electricity Security and Affordability Act,” legislation introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) which would restrict the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to promulgate a new rule to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new fossil-fired power plants; (2) H.R. 2824, the “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,” introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) which would effectively prevent the Department of Interior from promulgating any regulation under the authority of Section 503 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 “relating to stream buffer zones or stream protection before” for at least five years; and (3) H.R. 2641, the “Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2013 (or the RAPID Act),” legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) which seeks to increase efficiency and coordination in federal agencies’ regulatory and environmental review for projects which require review under the National Environmental Protection Act.

This Week’s Hearings

  • Thursday, March 6: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Preventing Potential Chemical Threats and Improving Safety: Oversight of the President’s Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.”
  • Thursday, March 6: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Fuel Supply and Infrastructure.”

Regulatory Activity

State Department IG Finds No Wrongdoing in Selection of Keystone XL Contractor

On Thursday, February 27, the State Department’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report concluding that the State Department’s process for selecting an environmental review contractor to prepare the Keystone XL supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) was proper, the State Department “substantially followed its prescribed guidance” and at times took steps that were “more rigorous than the guidance” requires. In essence, the IG found that the State Department did not violate any departmental rules or guidelines for selecting a contractor, and did not contribute to a conflict of interest. The report should remove at least one distraction as the State Department completes its national interest analysis for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Other potential roadblocks to construction of the pipeline remain, including a recent Nebraska state court decision concluding that implementation of the law underlying the selection of the Keystone XL proposed route violated the Nebraska state constitution. That case is now on appeal.

EPA Publishes Public Notice on Interpretation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005

On Wednesday, February 26, the EPA published a notice of data availability in the Federal Register providing the public with an opportunity to comment on the proper interpretation of Section 402(i) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and how that provision should be interpreted in the context of the EPA’s proposed rule to limit GHG emissions from new fossil-fired power plants. Section 402(i) prohibits EPA from deeming technology such as carbon capture sequestration to reduce emissions as “adequately demonstrated,” for purposes of Section III of the Clean Air Act, if the only application of that technology has received federal funding assistance. Some stakeholders and Republican members of Congress have argued that the EPA’s proposed rule violates Section 402(i) because the only projects associated with carbon capture sequestration technology in the U.S. have all received significant federal assistance. The proposed rule did not address this argument, so EPA’s notice provides stakeholders the ability to comment on the issue as part of the public record. The comment deadline extends until March 10, 2014.