Capital Thinking: Energy

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LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

HOUSE ENERGY COMMITTEE APPROVES BILL TO LIMIT EPA GHG REGULATORY AUTHORITY

On Tuesday, January 28, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to favorably report H.R. 3826, the “Electricity Security and Affordability Act,” to the full House by a near party-line vote of 29-19, with only two Democrats – Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) – voting in support of the legislation. The full committee approval of Rep. Whitfield’s legislation, which restricts the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, now sets the legislation up for full House consideration.

SENATE ENERGY COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING TO EXAMINE OIL EXPORT POLICY

On Thursday January 30, the Senate Energy and Natural resources Committee held a hearing titled “U.S. Crude Oil Exports: Opportunities and Challenges,” where committee members debated potential revisions to the U.S. policy governing crude oil exports. During the hearing, Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Republican Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) made it clear that the committee does not intend to advance legislation to force the Administration to revise U.S. export policy any time soon. Instead, both lawmakers noted that the hearing represents the beginning of a debate that should examine the potential consumer impact of expanded crude oil exports on the price of domestic fuel – including the impact on U.S. refiners and large commercial consumers of crude oil – while also examining changes in the international energy markets since the current export policy was enacted in the 1970s.

THIS WEEK’S HEARINGS

  • Wednesday, February 5: The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Energy in America: BLM’s Red-Tape Run Around and Its Impact on American Energy Production.”
  • Wednesday, February 5: The House Science Committee will hold a full committee hearing titled, “Examining the Science of EPA Overreach: A Case Study in Texas.”
  • Tuesday, February 4: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nominations of Ms. Rhea S. Suh, to serve as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior, and Ms. Janice M. Schneider, to serve as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Department of the Interior.

REGULATORY ACTIVITY

STATE DEPARTMENT RELEASES KEYSTONE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

On Friday, January 31, the State Department published a final environmental impact statement (EIS) concluding that the Keystone XL Pipeline project “is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios).” This conclusion undermines the primary argument raised by opponents of the Keystone XL application – that approval of the project would stimulate demand for crude oil derived from the Canadian tar sands, and in turn increase greenhouse gas emissions in the environment. In reaching this conclusion the State Department found that “the dominant drivers of oil sands development are more global than any single infrastructure project,” and that “oil sands production and investment could slow or accelerate depending on oil price trends, regulations, and technological developments” independent of any approval of the Keystone project. Yet even with that favorable conclusion, the final EIS did not represent a complete victory for supporters of the Keystone project because the final statement, unlike the draft, does not unequivocally conclude that the pipeline construction would have “no significant environmental impact.”