November 6, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


SENATE FAILS TO PASS FEDERAL WATER QUALITY PROTECTION ACT

On November 3rd, the U.S. Senate voted 57-41 to take up legislation from Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The bill, S. 1140, would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, with the aim of reducing the rule’s impact on farmers, ranchers and private landowners.

Several state attorneys general, the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and hundreds of agriculture, electricity and builders associations and small-business groups had endorsed S. 1140.

In a related development, a group of 11 Democratic senators, representing farm state interests, sent a letter to EPA and the Corps of Engineers saying “while we cannot currently support the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, we believe the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers can and must do better to address the legitimate issues that have been raised in regards to the implementation of this rule.”

The letter continues, “We call on the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to provide clearer and concise implementation guidance to ensure that the rule is effectively and consistently interpreted.  Farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors deserve this clarity and certainty.  Should the EPA not provide this clarity or enforce this rule in a way that erodes traditional exemptions, we reserve the right to support efforts in the future to revise the rule.”

Read S. 1140 at: https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/s1140/BILLS-114s1140rs.pdf


SENATORS ANNOUNCE ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT WORKING GROUP

Last week, U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced the formation of a Senate Energy and Environment Working Group that will focus on ways the nation can protect its environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation that helps drive job creation. The group will meet periodically to discuss general energy and environmental issues and exchange ideas about potential legislation.

Senator Ayotte helped organize the group and is working to grow its membership among Senate Republicans who want to join the effort of making natural resource protection a national priority.

The Energy and Environment Working Group will be a way to bring people together and start an ongoing conversation about these topics, e.g., how to best protect the environment and climate, pursue common sense and market-based reforms to grow the economy, and promote cleaner energy production. The Working Group will also promote a focus on doubling research and allowing innovative marketplace solutions to create an abundance of clean, cheap, reliable energy.

Additional information is available at: http://www.ayotte.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=2286


ENERGY AND POWER SUBCOMMITTEE PASSES RESOLUTIONS DISAPPROVING EPA POWER PLANT RULES

The Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a markup on November 3rd to consider two resolutions, H.J. Res 71 and H.J. Res 72, disapproving of the two final rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for new and existing power plants. The two resolutions were approved on party-line votes of 15-12, underscoring the continuing partisan dispute over the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The resolutions would face a guaranteed Presidential veto, but serve to lay out Republicans’ argument that the Obama administration is pursuing a regulatory cap and trade scheme that will drive up electricity prices, cost jobs, threaten grid reliability.

An electronic copy of H.J. Res 71 and H.J. Res 72, along with information on the markup itself, can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/markup/energy-and-power-subcommittee-markup-hj-res-71-and-hj-res-72


SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEES HOLD HEARING ON “THE RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD: A TEN YEAR REVIEW OF COSTS AND BENEFITS”

On November 3rd, the House Science Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight held a joint hearing titled “The Renewable Fuel Standard: A Ten Year Review of Costs and Benefits”. The purpose of this hearing was to examine the environmental impact and cost of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the ten year history of the program, as well as the economic impact and specific technical challenges involved in meeting future RFS requirements. The hearing specifically examined the impact of the RFS on the price of food and fuel.

The RFS creates a number of compliance challenges for refiners, biofuel producers, engine manufacturers, and distributors of the U.S. transportation fuel supply—eventually impacting American consumers through the price and availability of fuels. These issues include ongoing uncertainty in EPA management of the RFS, difficulty in achieving adequate levels of renewable fuel production, and the impact of “blend wall” in meeting RFS volume requirements in the future.

Important questions and key issues discussed at the hearing include:

  • After ten years, has the overall economic and environmental impact of the RFS been positive or negative?
  •  What is the impact of the RFS on the price of fuel and food for American consumers?
  • Would these costs increase if the RFS was enforced as outlined in the EISA? Would these costs decrease if the RFS was repealed?
  •  Is the U.S. transportation fuel market capable of absorbing higher volumes of E85 and E15 that will be necessary to meet future RFS requirements? What impact could those higher volumes have on consumer pricing?
  • What is the environmental impact of increased use of biofuels, including the lifecycle emissions and impact on air quality? How do the lifecycle emissions of corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol compare to gasoline?
  • How do the current emissions from biofuels compare with emissions predicted by models before the RFS was enacted? What steps should the EPA take to correct existing emissions models?

Additional information on the hearing, including the witnesses’ prepared statements is available at: https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/subcommittee-oversight-and-subcommittee-environment-hearing-renewable-fuel


NEW REPORT FINDS AMERICA’S ELECTRIC GRID GROWING CLEANER, CHEAPER AND STRONGER

A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts Clean Energy Initiative released on October 27th finds that while electricity is illuminating, its generation, transmission, and distribution have long been opaque. “Cleaner, Cheaper, Stronger: Industrial Efficiency in the Changing Utility Landscape” reports on how the once static utility industry is becoming a dynamic and transformative opportunity for the nation’s economic, environmental, and energy future.

An array of technological, competitive, and market forces are changing how the U.S. generates power and the ways that Americans interact with the electric grid. A century-old centralized system is yielding to advanced, distributed-energy generation capabilities—in which power is produced at or near the place where it is consumed—that allow the industry to respond to new market opportunities and evolving consumer desires.

The report concludes with an evaluation of the impact of key regulatory and legislative policies on the deployment of industrial energy efficiency technologies in order to help federal policymakers effectively encourage adoption of these systems. The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned ICF International Inc. to model these policies and found that implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and an improved federal investment tax credit could result in a 27 percent increase in adoption by 2030.

Download the report at: http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/CleanerCheaperStronger_FINAL_Web.pdf

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