Monday in Washington:
Neither the House nor the Senate will be voting this week or next as Congress takes a two week recess. Last week, both chambers passed legislation funding the government through the end of the fiscal year. The bill maintained the post sequester funding levels, but it provided more flexibility to many departments and agencies in how the funds appraised to them by Congress can be used or transferred to other accounts. Both the House and Senate passed budget resolutions last week as well proposing radically different plans for federal spending, tax policy, and entitlement reform. The budget resolutions are unlikely to be merged and do not have power of law, so the contents are largely symbolic.
When Congress returns, the Senate is expected to take up gun control legislation, immigration reform, and a few other controversial issues. The Obama administration is also expected to release their budget plans–this was the first time in 92 years that Congress proposed a budget before the executive branch. Hearings on the budget will likely dominate Committee activities.
Other Items of Interest:
U.S. Senator Wyden Asks EPA to Explain Ethanol RIN Volatility
Following extreme volatility in the RIN market, Sen. Wyden is asking EPA for additional data to explain the massive swings. The value of RINs reached a record $1.06 on March 8th from just 7.1 cents on Jan. 7th. The volatility has been viewed by many in the industry as a catalyst for a review of the Renewable Fuels Standard. Opponents of the RFS claim that the assumptions the policy was based on have now been proven inaccurate and will drive up prices for consumers. Supporters of the RFS claim that the problems in the RIN market were caused by oil sector manipulation and could be fixed by selling higher blends of gasoline. A copy of the Wyden letter can be viewed here:
NOAA Considers Effects of Arctic Oil & Gas Development
NOAA is seeking comments on a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for oil and gas activities in the Arctic Ocean. The draft, developed in collaboration with the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), includes analysis on how a broader range of potential offshore oil and gas activities could affect the environment, with a specific focus on marine mammals and the Alaska Native communities that depend on the animals for food and cultural traditions.
A copy of the EIS can be viewed here:
EPA Approves Arkansas Greenhouse Gas Program
The EPA approved the State of Arkansas’ program for permitting new and modified facilities that emit significant amounts of greenhouse gas pollution (GHG) into the air. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) worked closely with EPA to develop a state program to replace the existing federal program and submitted it for EPA review in November. Arkansas’ authority to issue air permits for new or modified GHG pollution sources will become effective in April, just four months after the EPA’s proposed approval of the program. Arkansas is the first state in the Region to replace a federal implementation plan with their own State program, which will eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from two separate regulatory agencies. This action will increase efficiency and allow for industry to continue to grow in Arkansas. Additional information on the Arkansas GHG permitting plan can be reviewed here:
BLM Releases Plan for Western Oil Shale and Oil Sand Resources
BLM released its final plan to encourage exploration and development of oil shale and oil sand resources on public lands. Comments on the proposed rule updating commercial oil shale regulations will be accepted for 60 days after its publication on March 22nd. Under the BLM record of decision, nearly 130,000 acres of public land in Utah containing oil sands will be made available for “research, development, and demonstration leases.” Nearly 700,000 acres containing oil shale resources in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming will be made available for similar leases. The leases for oil shale land could be converted to commercial leases after companies meet the research and development lease conditions, basic due diligence requirements, and clean air and water standards. The plan provides substantially less land than a 2008 proposal by the Bush administration that would have made some 2 million acres available for research and development. The BLM proposed rule updating commercial oil shale regulations is available here: http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wo/Communications_Directorate/public_affairs/news_release_attachments.Par.53372.File.tmp/BLM_Oil_Shale_PR_1004-AE28.pdf
Senate Votes for Amendment Supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline
The amendment, Sponsored by Sen. Hoeven (R-ND), passed by a vote of 62-37. The amendment was to a non-binding resolution that will not become a law. The importance of the vote however was the final number. With more than 60 votes in favor, it appears that a legislative proposal could pass the Senate. The Administration is working though the official process before determining its decision on the route and the pipeline. Some in Congress would like to use legislation to force the approval of the project. The last legislative attempt to force a decision resulted in an even longer and more convoluted process, so others involved in the project would prefer to let the official process wrap up, and use the evident support to waive other barriers after the President approves the route.
Presidential Council Releases Recommendations to Combat Climate Change
A report from President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology identified several executive actions that could be taken to address Climate change. The President asked for the advisors’ recommendations during a November meeting. The report makes six main recommendations: 1.) prepare country for impacts from change; 2.) reduce the carbon intensity of the economy with a focus on electricity generation; 3.) promoting market conditions to foster clean energy and energy efficiency; 4.) invest in research to develop clean energy technologies; 5.) provide international leadership on climate change; and 6.) conduct an initial quadrennial energy review. The report recommended support for expanded shale gas production, development and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technology, and expanded use of nuclear power as ways to foster lower carbon electricity generation in the absence of congressional action. A copy of the recommendations can be viewed here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST/pcast_energy_and_climate_3-22-13_final.pdf.
New Member of the Day: US Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Committee Assignments: Homeland Security and Science
Chief of Staff: Ricky Xuan Le
Legislative Director: Andrew S. Ginsburg
Rep. Swalwell was raised in Dublin, CA and graduated from Dublin High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law. While at Maryland, he served on the City of College Park City Council as its student representative. From 2001-2002, he worked in Washington, D.C. for Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher. Since 2006, has served as a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted over 1,000 cases and 32 jury trials. In 2006, Eric was appointed to the City of Dublin’s Heritage & Cultural Arts Commission where he later served as chairperson. From 2008 to 2010, Eric served on the City of Dublin Planning Commission. In November 2010, Eric was elected to the Dublin City Council. He founded and still serves as President of the Dublin High School Alumni Association. He serves in an advisory capacity on the Alameda County Fire Commission, the Alameda County Library Advisory Board and the Tri-Valley Conservancy. Eric is also a member of the Dublin Sister-City Association and the Dublin Lions Club. A former NCAA Division One soccer scholarship athlete, He enjoys coaching local youth soccer players. From 2006-2009, Eric coached youth soccer and was a director for the San Ramon Soccer Club.
Rep. Swalwell holds a seat formerly held by Rep. Stark, one of the most liberal Members in the House. Rep. Swalwell is going to be a reliable vote for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His relative youth and willingness to engage on numerous issues make him an interesting Member to watch as issues of shortened long-term investments of federal resources are discussed. With seats on both the House Science Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Swalwell will be an advocate for policies and investments benefiting his district including alternative energy R&D.
If you have any questions, please contact me anytime. Previous updates and Member profiles can be reviewed here: http://www.mzehrhbw.wordpress.com. Hope you all have a great week!
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