September 24, 2014
In This Issue
On Sept. 17, the US House passed H.J.Res. 124, a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through Dec. 11. In general, the resolution includes an across-the-board cut of 0.0554 percent in order to bring spending within the $1.012 trillion FY 2014 discretionary level agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67). Voting on the CR was delayed a week after the president requested the legislation include assistance to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The resolution includes emergency funding to address Ebola; legislative language to prevent data gaps in weather forecasting from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites; and extends previously enacted provisions of past appropriations bills such as the language prohibiting funding to phase-out the use of incandescent light bulbs.
The final CR passed the House with a strongly bipartisan vote of 319–108. One-hundred forty-three Democrats joined 176 Republicans in support of the measure. The Senate subsequently passed the measure by a 78–22 vote followed by President Obama signing the measure on Sept. 19.
Both chambers adjourned ahead of schedule after passing the CR in order for Members and Senators to get back on the campaign trail ahead of the Nov. midterm elections. Congress is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 12.
To view the White House Statement of Administration Policy supporting the CR, click this link:
On Sept. 23, President Obama spoke before the United Nations Climate Summit to an audience of over 120 world leaders. He outlined his administration’s Climate Action Plan and called on “all major economies” around the world to join him in reducing carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy.
“The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution,” stated President Obama. “It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come. So nobody can stand on the sidelines on [these] issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.”
The president also signed an executive order that day, directing all federal agencies to factor climate resilience into the design of international development programs and investments.
Click here to listen to the president’s speech.
Click here for the text of the president’s remarks.
Senate Climate Action Task Force Co-chairs Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spearheaded a letter of support to the People’s Climate March participants. Held on Sunday, Sept. 21, the march was an effort to rouse global action on climate change preceding the United Nations Climate Summit in New York this week.
“The call for action from concerned citizens like you is one of the reasons why the Senate Climate Action Task Force was formed,” the letter states. “It’s a way for us to use our bully pulpit to ‘Wake up Congress’ about the serious threat posed by climate change and to push leaders across the globe to do more to address this problem.”
Click here to view the full letter.
In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) outlined seven reasons why Congress should advance the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. The legislation would authorize stable and sustained increases in federal research and development for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
“Throughout my career in public service — first as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College, then as governor of West Virginia, and now in the US Senate as Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation — I have supported investments in science and technology, and in educating our young people in these areas,” writes Rockefeller. “There is no better way to maintain our global leadership and economic vitality.”
Rockefeller highlights the role research and development investment plays in improving economic opportunity, job growth and overall quality of life. He also noted the important role of federal research investment to ensure the US remains globally competitive.
The chance of a comprehensive America COMPETES Reauthorization Act reaching the president’s desk before the end of the year is unlikely due to the chasm of policy differences between the leadership of the House and Senate authorizing committees.
Chairman Rockefeller will be retiring from the Senate at the end of this year. Click here to view the full op-ed piece.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is extending the public commentary period on the agency’s Clean Power Plant Proposed Rule by an additional 45 days.
The new deadline gives the public until Dec. 1 to comment on the rule and will not delay the June 2015 deadline for finalizing the rule. The rule is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and would decrease carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels.
EPA had originally set a 120-day comment period, which is twice the normal time given for federal regulations. To date 750,000 public comments have been submitted.
Fifty-thee Senators (including 10 Democrats) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Sept. 11 requesting a 60-day extension for the public comment. State regulators and industry had also called for an extension of the public comment period.
On Sept. 17, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened for a hearing entitled “The Administration’s Climate Plan: Failure by Design.”
Committee Republicans asserted that the administration’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have considerable economic costs in the form of job loss and increased energy prices. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) argued that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plant Proposed Rule to reduce carbon pollution would have minimal impact on climate change.
“Extending well beyond the power plants themselves, this rule will increase the cost of electricity and the cost of doing business. It will make it harder for the American people to make ends meet,” stated Chairman Smith. “In fact, EPA’s own data show us that its power plant regulation would eliminate less than one percent of global carbon emissions.”
“We in Congress have to acknowledge that we are not the experts and that allowing partisan politics to distort the scientific understanding of climate change is cynical and short-sighted,” countered Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in her opening statement. “We may not agree on where the uncertainties within climate science lie, but we should all be able to understand that vast and avoidable uncertainties will remain if we stop the progress of climate research.”
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren and EPA Office of Air and Radiation Acting Administrator Janet McCabe testified on behalf of the Obama administration. In her testimony, McCabe outlined the “unprecedented” level of dialog and input the agency has received from stakeholders, which included “eleven public listening sessions” around the country and “hundreds-of-thousands of comments” through the extended public comment period. McCabe noted the agency is actively reaching out to utilities and state officials for input on the rule.
In response to questions about whether the EPA power plant rule will have a significant impact on global temperatures, Holdren asserted that if the United States does not take action on climate change, it is unlikely that other major emitters such as China, India, Japan, and Russia will do so. He also noted that the effects of climate change will have detrimental economic impacts related to costs associated with increased flooding, droughts, more extreme heat waves, wildfires, pest outbreaks, and pathogen spread. Other impacts affecting multiple sectors of the US economy including energy, forestry, agriculture and fisheries were highlighted. Holdren added that from a global innovation standpoint, the US is better off in leading the development of renewable energy technologies as opposed to allowing other countries concerned with climate change to take the lead.
View the full hearing here.
On Sept. 11, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) were joined by 57 House Democrats in a letter to House Republican leaders requesting a polystyrene foam products ban in the House cafeterias.
The letter references a July 28 National Academy of Sciences report that supported listing of styrene as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
Polystyrene was banned for use in the House cafeterias during the four-year tenure of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). However, Republicans overturned the ban when they gained control of the House in 2011, stating that alternative packaging is costly and resource-intensive to produce. Legislative attempts by House Democrats to prohibit House spending on polystyrene containers have failed largely along partisan lines.
View the full letter.
The US Forest Service has extended the public comment period an additional 30 days for a proposed directive to codify best management practices for groundwater monitoring and protection of 193 million acres of National Forest System land. The deadline is now Oct. 3.
Environmental groups have praised the Service’s effort to better understand how groundwater impacts ecosystems and its connections to surface water. However, the agriculture industry and western state governors are concerned the federal effort is an unnecessary infringement on the authority of states to manage their water resources.
There is also a degree of bipartisan skepticism towards the effort among Members of Congress with Republicans sharing the sentiments of the agricultural industry and state officials. Democrats are concerned that the Forest Service may not have the resources for the effort, given that it is cash-strapped due to its expenditures to combat wildfires. The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry held a hearing on the proposal Sept. 10.
“I am gravely concerned that this directive would create more problems than it proclaims to solve, and will further undermine the ability of the Forest Service to carry out its management responsibilities,” stated Conservation, Energy and Forestry Chairman Glenn Thompson (R-PA).
To comment on the proposed directive, click here.
Click here to view the congressional hearing.
Introduced in House
H.R. 5559, the Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act – Introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Loebsack (D-CA), the bill would extend over a dozen clean energy tax credits related to biodiesel and biofuels, electric vehicles, energy efficient buildings, solar and other alternative energy sources. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
H.R. 2, the American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act – Introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), the comprehensive legislation is an amalgam of 13 bills passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this year. It bypasses existing administration regulations, including National Environmental Policy Act reviews, to boost energy production. The bill passed the House Sept. 18 by a vote of 226–191 with nine Democrats joining all but seven Republicans in supporting the bill.
Among the more contentious provisions, the bill includes language to restrict the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to enforce the Clean Power Plant Proposed Rule to reduce carbon pollution. It would also make a presidential permit unnecessary in approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill also prevents EPA from enforcing regulations that cost over $1 billion if the US Department of Energy determines such regulations would have a detrimental effect on the US economy.
The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill.
H.R. 4, the Jobs for America Act – Introduced by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the bill streamlines federal regulations specific to land management and natural resources conservation and restricts the issuance of new federal regulations. The legislation includes language requiring Congress to approve any federal regulation that costs over $50 million before implementation. The bill also permanently extends certain tax policies related to small businesses. The bill passed the House Sept. 18 by a vote of 253–163 with 32 Democrats joining all but one Republican in support of the measure.
The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill.
Introduced in Senate
S. 2798, the Great Lakes and Algal Bloom Protection Act – Introduced Sept. 11 by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the bill would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create a research and information electronic database for Great Lakes algal blooms. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
S. 2823, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act – Introduced Sept. 16 by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill would set a time limit for the federal consideration of cross-border oil or natural gas pipelines and electrical transmission facilities. The bill sets a 120-day maximum for the US State Department or US Department of Energy to consider cross-border permits after completion of the environmental review. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
a bill to establish the Southern Prairie Potholes National Wildlife Refuge – Introduced Sept. 17 by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the bill would establish a new national wildlife refuge of up to 23,500 acres in the US within the international Prairie Pothole Region that includes wetlands ranging from north-central Iowa into Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana. The region extends through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta Canada. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
S. 2861, to authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), Florida – Introduced Sept. 18 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would allow the implementation of CEPP immediately after the US Army Corps of Engineers approves the project. CEPP is designed to restore, protect and preserve the water resources of central and southern Florida, including the Everglades. It covers 16 counties over an 18,000-square-mile area. Enactment of the bill would skirt the need for Congress to include the project in a future Water Resources Development Act. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is an original cosponsor of the bill. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) has introduced companion legislation in the House (H.R. 5631). Murphy’s bill has 10 bipartisan cosponsors and has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Sources: US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, the White House, House Space, Science and Technology Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, Huffington Post