March 5, 2007
In This Issue
CLIMATE: FLOOR VOTE LIKELY WEEK OF MARCH 5 ON PELOSI’S SELECT COMMITTEE ON GLOBAL WARMING AND ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
The House is expected to vote the week of March 5 on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) new Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence. Pelosi called for the new select committee in January in large part to attract media and public attention to global warming. The committee’s official formation has since remained under wraps, even as interest in climate issues and legislation has grown. Republicans say they are planning to pack their side of Pelosi’s panel with skeptics, with the ranking member post going to either Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), Dana Rohrabacher (CA) or Greg Walden (OR). Pelosi has reportedly picked Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) as the committee chairman, though her office has refused to go on the record to confirm any appointments.
Pelosi has promised the new panel will not have legislative authority and will expire in October 2008. Her concessions appear to have won over Rep. John Dingell (MI), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The effect of invasive species on the Great Lakes is the focus of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing March 7. When the issue came up before the panel last session, experts warned that the Great Lakes and their ecosystems are reaching a “tipping point” beyond which environmental recovery will become increasingly difficult. Federal officials had argued they are doing all they can to ensure a healthy future for the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, but local officials and water experts told the panel the Bush administration has not provided adequate funding to back its commitment to Great Lakes restoration.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will examine the farm bill’s research grants, which include projects on energy crops, organic farming, and foreign pests and diseases on March 7. In its proposal for the 2007 farm bill, the Bush administration suggested adding a new $50 million fund for research on how to improve production of renewable fuels and bio-based products. The USDA proposal would also add $10 million for organic crop research and $100 million for specialty crops.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has proposed consolidating two of USDA’s research arms into a single agency to coordinate all of the research, extension and education programs.
House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle criticized a White House corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) proposal February 28 for failing to specify a miles-per-gallon increase and analyze its impact on fuel consumption and the economy.
Key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Congress must change its view of CAFE to consider not only fuel consumption but also its effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing alternative energy technologies. The hearing marks the administration’s first effort to promote President Bush’s CAFE plan for passenger cars to the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Bush’s proposal strongly resembles a rule enacted last year for light-trucks that modified the CAFE system to create standards linked to vehicles’ size and other characteristics. The Transportation Department already has the authority to raise CAFE standards, but it cannot modify the overall structure without congressional approval.
The White House intends to send to Congress legislation that would implement the alternative fuels mandate outlined by President Bush in this year’s State of the Union.
The White House wants Congress to view the 35 billion gallon standard as a specific mandate, codified through law, as opposed to a loose target achieved through the use of incentives and federal dollars.
The proposal would revive the Clinton-era Partnership of New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), which attempted to unite automakers and federal officials to produce a prototype vehicle capable of getting 80 miles a gallon. The program received roughly $1 billion in government funding during the 1990s but was ultimately cancelled early in the Bush administration.
An upcoming House bill aimed at spurring development of coal-to-liquids plants would require carbon sequestration for projects that receive federal price guarantees, the congressman drafting the legislation said March 1. Virginia Democrat Rick Boucher, who represents a coal-mining congressional district, is crafting a bill aimed at spurring the development of a domestic industry for making transportation fuels from coal. His plan would provide federal funding to plant operators if oil prices fall below certain levels — a guarantee he hopes will ease Wall Street concerns about financing such projects.
“Anybody who participates is going to have to agree to capture and store CO2 emissions,” Boucher said in a brief interview. “That will be required in the legislation. That will be a condition of receiving a price guarantee.”
Members of U.S. EPA’s science advisory panel on air pollution, Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), voiced strong concerns February 6 about the Bush administration’s recent directive to expand the power of political appointees over the panel’s work.
One member suggested scientists were “handcuffing ourselves” by allowing political appointees to take a stronger role in the agency’s scientific reviews of six criteria air pollutants and their associated human health risks.
Under the new policy, EPA science staff will no longer draft policy recommendations alone but will share that responsibility with a political appointee in the agency. The outcome will be a synopsis of “policy-relevant science,” as opposed to a comprehensive review of past and present knowledge on the health effects of criteria air pollutants.
A California state lawmaker introduced a bill the week of February 19 in the state legislature that would remove the state’s ban on new nuclear power plants. The bill is expected to be very unpopular, but its sponsor, state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R), said it is unrealistic not to consider nuclear power as the state tries to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Sources: Energy and Environment Daily; Energy and Environment News PM; Greenwire