ESA Policy News: January 13

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.

HOUSE: COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN TO REFOCUS PRIORITIES, PROBE CLIMATE SCIENCE

Among the new priorities of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the 112th Congress will be an  investigation of climate science.

Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) opposes cap-and-trade policies and the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Hall has repeatedly suggested that so-called “Climategate” e-mails between climate scientists posted on the Internet in 2009 raise doubts about the overall quality of climate science, a stance that landed him on the liberal Center for American Progress’ list of “climate zombie” lawmakers who question the scientific consensus on global climate change.

Hall said his committee’s vice chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), an outspoken climate skeptic and former committee chairman, will take the lead on the issue. Sensenbrenner also served as the top Republican on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was abolished this year when his party took control of the House.

EPA: HOUSE AND SENATE LEADERS SPAR OVER CLIMATE RULES

Committee leaders within the House and Senate have already begun sparing over legislative attempts to block the Obama administration’s global climate change and air pollution rules.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) criticized the House GOP majority for targeting rules covering healthcare and the environment. Chairwoman Boxer asserted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is following the will of Congress in implementing its carbon regulations, she said, pointing to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that found that the Clean Air Act grants the agency the authority to do so.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is planning an early series of hearings on the Obama EPA rules that target power plants, petroleum refiners and other major stationary industrial sources. He’s also said that he’s considering legislation that would stop the agency’s efforts until a series of lawsuits have been resolved.

PUBLIC LANDS: HOUSE CHAIRMAN TO TARGET BLM ‘WILD LANDS’ POLICY

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee,  plans to contest whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the authority to impose temporary wilderness restrictions on federal lands in the West.

GULF SPILL: PANEL RELEASES RECOMMENDATION REPORT ON OFFSHORE DRILLING

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, tasked by President Obama to investigate the causes and effects of the disaster in the Gulf, released its final report Jan. 11. The commission report concludes that the Gulf disaster was rooted in both the systemic failure of industry and in the lack of adequate oversight by government.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold its first hearing of the new Congress on the commission’s findings Jan. 26, according to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who chairs the committee. Chairman Bingaman plans to host former U.S. EPA Administrator Bill Reilly and former Florida Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, the co-chairmen of the commission. The group says its top recommendation to Congress is to provide more funding to Interior to ensure regulators have ample resources to oversee increasingly technical drilling operations.

In their report, co-Chairmen Graham and Reilly commend Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for reorganizing the former Minerals Management Service  into the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. However, they argue that the move doesn’t go far enough to ensure that the organization’s safety priorities aren’t compromised by politics.

MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL: EPA REVOKES PERMIT FOR WV PROJECT

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has vetoed a federal permit for one of the largest mountaintop-removal projects ever proposed in Appalachia, a clear signal of the Obama administration’s opposition to the controversial coal-mining practice.

The veto of the permit issued in 2007 by the Army Corps of Engineers was EPA’s 13th use of veto authority under the 1972 Clean Water Act. The agency last used that authority in 2008 when it stopped the Army Corps’ work on a flood control project that regulators say would have destroyed 67,000 acres of Mississippi River wetlands.

HOUSE: CRITICALLY WOUNDED MEMBER ACCLAIMED AS SOLAR POWER “HERO”

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), shot Jan. 8 during a constituent event in Tucson, has been looked upon as a strong advocate for the renewable energy and environmental communities. The shooting killed six people and wounded 14 others, including the Congresswoman, who remains in critical condition.

A young centrist Member, Giffords has championed renewable energy and environmental causes during her four years in Congress. Just two months into her first term, she was named vice chairwoman of the House Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. She has been referred to as a “hero” by both the Sierra Club the Solar Energy Industries Association on solar power issues.

The Congresswoman, recently sworn in for her third term, touted solar energy a job creator for her district in Tucson. She was a key supporter of the Treasury Department’s renewable energy grant-in-lieu-of-tax-credit program that was extended for one year last month in the tax package and has pushed for more incentives for the solar industry.  She is also a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus.

In Sept. 2009, she introduced H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act. The $2.25 billion bill sought to streamline solar energy research and development at the Department of Energy for the next five years. The bill passed the House, but did not clear the Senate before the 111th Congress adjourned, although hearings were held in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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