The most important climate change hearing in town today will be held miles down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol Building, but the listening session on U.S. EPA’s marquee carbon rule is still drawing plenty of congressional interest. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a sponsor of the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill that cleared the House in 2009, will be among the first to testify on the existing power plant proposal this morning as the two-day listening session begins. Markey commended EPA in prepared remarks for a draft rule that he said would make sure “millions of Americans are healthier” and create jobs. But he blasted Republicans for attacking the rule on economic grounds.
Hundreds of supporters of the Obama administration’s flagship climate change rule turned the grounds around the U.S. EPA headquarters into a green carnival this morning as the agency opened the first public hearings on the proposal in Washington, D.C. Stoking enthusiasm outside the William Jefferson Clinton Building was Ben & Jerry’s, which handed out free cookie dough and fudge ice cream to rule backers — notably children organized by the Moms Clean Air Task Force. The group is also staging “play-ins” at the other three EPA listening sessions this week in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh.
en. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday that he had proposed amendments that would restore the tax credits for wind energy and biodiesel production. Both measures would amend the Bring Jobs Home Act, which seeks to discourage outsourcing jobs by ending certain tax credits. The wind and biodiesel incentives, popular in Iowa because they benefits industries common to the state, expired last year.
U.S. EPA won’t be alone in holding climate change hearings this week. Three congressional committees will also mull the issue, which has been characterized as both the gravest challenge facing future generations and — in the words of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — “the greatest hoax ever to be perpetrated on the American people.”
“Safe, reliable and affordable” is the mantra of the regulators and utilities of the nation’s electricity grid that is at the heart of the U.S. economy. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power is turning to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for answers in a hearing tomorrow as to whether U.S. electricity will still be safe, reliable and affordable if the recently proposed U.S. EPA regulations on carbon emissions at existing power plants are enacted.
Among all the states that have mandated renewable energy targets, California leads the pack. Under the Global Warming Solutions Act — signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2006 — the state must receive 33 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and lower its emissions by 80 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2050.
Xcel Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ben Fowke may have found the sweet spot as the leader of one of the nation’s largest utility holding companies. It’s not that his four regulated utilities with operations in eight states aren’t challenged by the multiple trends shaking up the electricity industry across the U.S. They certainly are.
More than 1,000 clean-air advocates are en route to Atlanta. Those against U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon rules for existing power plants will be there in full force, too.
“This is the continuing battle on the Supreme Court between those who believe in Chevron deference and those who believe Chevron deference has gone too far,” said Thomas Lorenzen, a former Justice Department attorney now at Dorsey & Whitney. “You’ve got [Chief Justice John] Roberts and [Justices Antonin] Scalia — and presumably [Samuel] Alito and [Clarence] Thomas — who would say this has gone too far — Chevron should be limited.”
While political battles rage in Congress over U.S. EPA’s landmark proposal for curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants, most expect that court rulings, not legislation, will decide the rule’s fate. Even if November’s elections swing Senate control to the Republicans, their efforts to clip EPA authority stand little chance of overriding President Obama’s veto, given how few Democrats are likely to link arms with the GOP on the issue.