The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are on recess and will not reconvene until the week of September 10th. Items on the agenda when they return include: FY2013 appropriations bills or a continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of calendar year 2012; passage of a new farm bill or a short-term extension the existing programs; and consideration of cyber security legislation that failed to move through the Senate before the recess. The Rep. Dennis Cardoza of California last week bring the number of vacancies in the House to 5—the House has not had its full 435 members since February 2011. Gallup announced last week that Congress’s approval now stands at 10 percent—this is down from 16 percent in July and ties the lowest approval rating for Congress in the 38 years Gallup has been conducting the survey.
Energy Report: U.S. Wind Energy Production and Manufacturing Surges, Supporting Jobs and Diversifying U.S. Energy Economy
On August 14th, the U.S. Department of Energy released a new report highlighting strong growth in the U.S. wind energy market in 2011, increasing the U.S. share of clean energy and supporting tens of thousands of jobs, and underscoring the importance of continued policy support and clean energy tax credits to ensure that the manufacturing and jobs associated with this booming global industry remain in America According to the 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, the United States remained one of the world’s largest and fastest growing wind markets in 2011, with wind power representing a remarkable 32 percent of all new electric capacity additions in the United States last year and accounting for $14 billion in new investment. According to the report, the percentage of wind equipment made in America also increased dramatically. Nearly seventy percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year – including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears, and generators – is now from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35 percent in 2005.
House Natural Resource Committee Holds Full Committee Hearing on H.R. 6247: “The Saving our Dams and New Hydropower Development Act.”
On Wednesday, August 15th, the House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative field hearing on H.R. 6247, the “Saving our Dams and New Hydropower Development Act.” Witnesses testified from the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the United Power Trade Organizations, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Power and Conservative Council, and the Washington Potato Commission. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the Federal Columbia River Power System, and to promote new Federal and other hydropower generation.
BSEE Releases Offshore Drilling Safety Rule
On August 15th, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced the final issuance of a drilling safety rule. The rule makes final the important safety reforms put in place in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which significantly improved drilling safety by strengthening requirements for safety equipment, well control systems, and blowout prevention practices on offshore oil and gas operations, and which companies have effectively complied with for nearly two years. The Drilling Safety Rule improves upon pre-Deepwater Horizon regulations by establishing new standards for casing and cementing, including integrity testing requirements; third-party certification and verification requirements; blowout preventer (BOP) capability, testing, and documentation obligations; and standards for specific well control training, to include deepwater operations.
New Director is Appointed of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
On August 15th, the Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank appointed Rear Admiral Michael S. Devany as director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. As director, Devany will be responsible for the agency’s fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft, as well as guiding the 311 uniformed officers and about 1,000 civilian personnel assigned to the NOAA Corps and the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. A NOAA Corps officer since 1990, Rear Admiral Devany has more than 20 years of experience in environmental restoration, response, compliance, and data acquisition in the marine environment.
GAO Releases Study Showing Increased Energy Costs Resulting from New EPA Rules
On August 16th, the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report assessing the impact of four new rules: (1) the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule; (2) the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards; (3) the proposed Cooling Water Intake Structures regulation; and (4) the proposed Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals regulation. According to the study, the rules will result in the retirement of between 2 percent and 12 percent of U.S. coal-fired capacity, with the most significant price impacts being felt in the South and the Midwest. Electricity rates will rise from a low of 0.1 percent in the Northwest to 13.5 percent in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Senate Energy Committee Holds Hearing to Discuss Climate Change
On Friday, August 17th, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on climate change on the intermountain west. The purpose of the hearing was to examine the current and future impacts of climate change on the intermountain west, focusing on drought, wildfire frequency and severity, and ecosystem. Witnesses testified from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Western Regional Climate Center.