EPW Committee Sets A Deadline for the California Waiver

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 31 Jul 2007 22:46:00 GMT

In this morning’s markup, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 1785, which has the following straightforward text:
Section 209 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7543) is amended by adding at the end the following: (f) Waivers of Preemption-
  1. PENDING REQUESTS- Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, but in no case later than September 30, 2007, the Administrator shall issue to the Governor of each applicable State a decision on each request for a waiver of preemption under subsection (b) that—
    1. has been submitted by the State; and
    2. is pending as of the date of enactment of this subsection.
  2. SUBSEQUENT REQUESTS- With respect to a request for a waiver of preemption under subsection (b) (including such a request submitted by a State that has adopted and enforced certain standards as described in section 177) that is submitted by a State after the date of enactment of this subsection, not later than 180 days after the date on which the Administrator receives the request, the Administrator shall issue to the Governor of the State a decision on whether to grant the waiver.

It passed by a party-line 10-9 vote.

House Renewable Energy Action: HR 3221 and HR 2776

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 31 Jul 2007 20:28:00 GMT

On July 30, Speaker Pelosi set the agenda for her energy independence initiative, which she had originally hoped to complete by July 4th. The legislative package will be introduced to the floor in two parts:
  • the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 (HR 2776) from the Ways and Means Committee, reported out at the end of June
  • and the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (HR 3221), which needs to be signed off by the relevant committees

HR 2776 provides tax incentives for renewable electricity production, biofuels, efficient appliances, plug-in hybrids, and renewable energy bonds. It pays for these incentives buy reducing oil and gas royalties and closing the “Hummer” tax loophole.

HR 3221 is a wide-ranging omnibus, under the jurisdiction of the following committees:
  • Education and Labor (Title I: green jobs)
  • Foreign Affairs (Title II: foreign assistance and trade)
  • Small Business (Title III: small business sustainability initiative)
  • Science and Technology (Title IV: research funding—HR 364, HR 906, HR 1933, HR 2773, HR 2774, HR 2304, HR 2313)
  • Agriculture (Title V: biofuels)
  • Oversight and Government Reform (Title VI: carbon-neutral government)
  • Natural Resources (Title VII: Energy Policy Act of 2005 reforms, changes in oil and gas royalties, wind energy, CCS, wildlife, oceans)
  • Transportation and Infrastructure (Title VIII: public transportation, highways, shipping, public buildings)
  • Energy and Commerce (Title IX: appliance, lighting, and building efficiency, smart grid, renewable fuel infrastructure, plug-in hybrids)
  • Armed Services (it’s unclear which components are under its jurisdiction)

All amendments to HR 3221 must be introduced by Wednesday afternoon. The Rules Committee will convene Thursday at 3 PM to establish the debate rules and timetable.

After the amendment process and ratification, the package will then go into conference to be reconciled with the Senate energy bill, SA 1502, passed mid-June.

Senate Farm Bill Outlook

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 30 Jul 2007 22:23:00 GMT

From CQ.com: Broader Policy Overhaul May Be in Store as Senate Takes Up Farm Bill.

Summary:
  • Senate will take up bill after August recess; making the September 30 deadline unlikely
  • Sen. Harkin, Ag Committee chair, plans much higher land-conservation program funding than in House bill (HR 2419)
  • Harkin and Grassley (R-Iowa) plan to cap annual payments to $250,000 from current cap of $360,000; HR 2419 has no cap
  • Sen. Lugar (R-Ind.) supports FARM21, Ron Kind’s proposal (H.AMDT 700)
  • Sens. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Farm Safety Net Improvement Act last week, which ties “counter-cyclical” payments (aka crop subsidy payments) to revenue (price times yield) instead of the target price (see the American Farmland Trust page)
  • Nutrition advocates are looking for better than the $4 billion increase in the House bill
  • Tax provisions to pay for the Senate bill will generate Republican resistance

Full text below the fold.

Carbon Market Efficiency Board

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 30 Jul 2007 17:14:00 GMT

Last week, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) presented the Containing and Managing Climate Change Costs Efficiently Act (S. 1874), a piece of legislation authored by Joe Lieberman’s former environmental advisor, Timothy Profeta, who now heads the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.

The proposal would establish the Carbon Market Efficiency Board which would oversee the emissions trading market established by cap-and-trade legislation. The board would operate much like the Federal Reserve Board, providing information on price and low-emission technology investment trends to Congress and the public, and it would adjust the price of emissions permits when a “market correction” is needed. The first measure is to expand companies’ ability to “bank” permits, or borrow permits against future year reductions. The second measure, to be used if high prices are not relieved by the first measure, is to add a slightly larger number of permits to the market. This temporary increase would be compensated for by reducing available permits in a later year, when more options have been developed.

Profeta testified about the proposal in last week’s hearing. His white paper goes into further detail.

The bill is intended to be folded into the Lieberman-Warner package to be presented as a discussion draft at the end of the week.

John Warner (R-Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) are cosponsoring the bill, in a bipartisan show of strength by pro-business Senators. [The League of Conservation Voters/Chamber of Commerce scores for the senators are: Warner 14%/100%, Graham 29%/92%, Landrieu 43%/75%, Lincoln 43%/67%. By way of comparison, Lieberman is 71%/44%.]

House passes Farm Bill 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 27 Jul 2007 20:56:00 GMT

By 231-191, the House passed the farm bill (HR 2419) today. Highlights:
  • The bill funds the energy title, which funds biofuels research and development, energy efficiency programs and renewable-energy projects, by reversing $6.1 billion over ten years of the offshore drilling royalty payments mistakenly granted to oil and gas companies
  • The bill found additional funding for food stamps by by ending a practice known as “earnings stripping,” which lets foreign-owned companies shift income to a country with lower tax rates, delivering $7.8 billion over 10 years
  • The Senate is expected to start debating its version of the legislation after the August recess. Current programs expire Sept. 30 and it is unlikely Congress will be able to complete action on a new five-year bill by then. Instead, a short-term extension of the law is likely to be necessary.
  • The $5 million per year Community Food Projects program to fight food insecurity by funding projects that promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities was zeroed out.

EPA Administrator "defers" to the Department of Transportation

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 26 Jul 2007 16:43:00 GMT

At today’s hearing on the California waiver, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson refused to condemn or even comment on the Department of Transportation’s lobbying against the waiver. He also refused to state whether or not the administration is opposed to the request.

In his testimony, he admitted speaking to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Mary E. Peters, at the beginning of the comment period, and obfuscated over what they discussed. He admitted that they discussed reaching out to her “constituency”, which when pressed by Sen. Boxer, he understood to mean governors and members “particularly interested” in transportation. He avoided saying what the Secretary’s intentions or views were and whether he recommended the “constituency” should send in comments.

His new excuse for not making a decision on the waiver request is the “voluminous” amount of comments. He was understandably accused of footdragging by the Democrats on the panel.

Cap-and-trade hearing prelude to Senate legislation

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 24 Jul 2007 02:05:00 GMT

Tomorrow’s global warming hearing, led by Joe Lieberman, will be a prelude to the cap-and-trade legislation now being written by his and John Warner’s staffers. This bill will be the default Senate cap-and-trade bill unless matters dramatically change. See CQ Green Sheets for more.

The Hill: Oil industry lobbyists in fits

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 24 Jul 2007 01:28:00 GMT

From The Hill: Lobbyists face energy bill dilemma. In short, oil and gas lobbyists, long in the GOP camp, are struggling to kill Titles 1 and 2 of Nick Rahall’s bill (H.R. 2337), which repeal the massive tax breaks for oil companies in the Republican Energy Policy Act of 2005. Their best friends on the Democratic side are Blue Dogs Charles Melancon of Louisiana and Jim Matheson of Utah. Also in question is whether there will end up being time for a vote on the legislation, with the farm bill (with which agribusiness is happy enough), commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations, transportation appropriations, and children’s health insurance also on the docket before the August recess.

By Jim Snyder July 24, 2007 One of the toughest decisions a lobbyist makes is when exactly to lobby against something. Do you try to stop a bill in committee, marshal opposition on the floor, or wait for the relative secrecy of a congressional conference committee to let loose the arrows in your quiver?

It may be easier to stop an offending provision before the Government Printing Office ink is dry. But sometimes it’s better to allow an opponent an early win, especially if one of your opponents is the Speaker of the House, before a final defeat.

Oil and gas lobbyists, playing defense all session, are weighing how hard to push their backers on Capitol Hill to draw a line in the sand on energy legislation.

On the floor, House members this week take up two major spending bills— transportation and commerce, justice, and science (CJS)— as well as a farm bill that, in contrast to the energy bill, has broad support among industry lobbyists. The Senate takes up a higher education reauthorization bill.

Pelosi’s Leadership
But behind the scenes, lobbyists describe a furious effort under way to shape energy legislation in the final stretch before August recess.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week met with “oil patch” members, often the most conservative elements of her diverse caucus, to try to smooth over intra-party differences that are delaying one of the party’s biggest priorities.

Pelosi urged the members to try to work with Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to find compromise on his energy bill, one of several measures likely to be linked together on the floor.

Pew Center: Voters Demand Stronger CAFE Standards 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 23 Jul 2007 19:31:00 GMT

With a vote on CAFE legislation in the House expected to come next week, the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency today released new bipartisan polling in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan that pulled from more than 30 congressional districts. The surveys found overwhelming voter support for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass CAFE legislation at least as strong as those passed by the U.S. Senate in June. One particular district surveyed was John Dingell’s, Michigan-15.

The polls compared the elements of the Markey-Platts bill (HR 1506) with those of the industry-supported Hill-Terry bill (HR 2927), and found overwhelming, across-the-board support for Markey-Platts across all demographic groups (partisanship, income, type of car, age, etc.). Voters just don’t buy the industry arguments against CAFE standards, believing that cars will continue to be safe and affordable and that the American auto industry and auto workers will be better off as they will be forced to innovate.

As Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster said in the briefing, “There’s really strong Republican support for higher standards, do it quicker, make it binding.” Voters see this as an economic, environmental, national security issue, and would feel better about Congress and their own representative if strong legislation is passed.

Voters in Dingell’s district look like the voters elsewhere.

The pollsters deliberately avoided global warming because they see it as a partisan issue.

Oceanic Carbon Offsets ? 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 20 Jul 2007 11:02:00 GMT

Following up on Wednesday’s global warming committee hearing on carbon offsets, the Washington Post covers the company of one of the witnesses, Planktos CEO Russ George.
A small California company is planning to mix up to 80 tons of iron particles into the Pacific Ocean 350 miles west of the Galapagos islands to see whether it can make a splash in the markets where people seek to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

Planktos – with 24 employees, a Web site and virtually no revenue – has raised money to send a 115-foot boat called the Weatherbird II on a voyage to stimulate the growth of plankton that could boost the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The company plans to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide captured and sell it on the nascent carbon-trading markets. . . . Environmental groups say the Planktos project could have unforeseen side effects, and the Environmental Protection Agency has warned that the action may be subject to regulation under the Ocean Dumping Act. . . . The Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study, an international research group, said last month that “ocean fertilization will be ineffective and potentially deleterious, and should not be used as a strategy for offsetting CO2 emissions.” The International Maritime Organization scientific group, the Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund have condemned it. And a group called the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said its own ship would monitor the Planktos vessel and possibly “intercept” it.

On Wednesday, George appeared before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and lashed back at his critics. The EPA was working with “radical environmental groups,” he said. In written submissions, he said his firm’s work had been “falsely portrayed” to “generate public alarm.” . . . . George said “it’s the clearest ocean on Earth because it’s lifeless, and it’s not supposed to be that way.”

George asserts that the potential is enormous. He said that the annual drop in ocean plant life was like losing all the rain forests every year. “If we succeed, we’ll have created an industry,” he told the House committee. “If we don’t succeed, we’ll have created a lot of great science.”

Quotes from a few experts on the Planktos plan are below the break.

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