The week ahead: Nuclear safety, EPA climate rules in focus

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up legislation that removes the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, refineries and other sources.



The battle over Upton’s bill began with a subcommittee vote last week. That was just a skirmish, as Democrats declined to offer amendments.


But Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) — the panel's top Democrat — said Democrats will offer amendments at this week’s markup.

 Most of their amendments are unlikely to pass, but would provide a chance to force votes that highlight their criticisms of the bill.



Opening statements come Monday, but the real action won’t happen until Tuesday.



Looking ahead, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said last Thursday that Upton’s bill is expected to come before the full House “in the next couple of weeks.”



Collisions over Obama administration oil-and-gas drilling policies will also continue in Congress, with several hearings planned.



Michael Bromwich, the Interior Department’s top offshore drilling regulator, will appear Thursday before a House Appropriations Committee panel that crafts Interior’s spending bills.



Bromwich heads the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which has come under fire from Republicans and drill-state Democrats over the pace of permitting for offshore projects.



Bromwich’s agency last month approved the first permit for the type of deepwater drilling project that was halted after the BP oil spill, and approved a second permit late Friday.


Interior officials say more deepwater permits are in the works, but critics have for months accused the agency of unnecessary restrictions on drilling.



Bromwich has his own cards to play: Look for him to argue that permitting will speed up if his agency gets the big spending boost it’s seeking, which would be offset in part through higher fees on drillers Interior wants to impose.



The agency is applying much closer scrutiny to permit requests and requiring compliance with beefed-up safety rules.



On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the big January report issued by the presidential commission that probed the BP spill. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling called for a suite of federal and industry reforms.



Also Wednesday: The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing with a title that highlights Republicans’ attacks on the White House: “The Obama administration's de facto moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico: Community and economic impacts.”



The hearing is part of a GOP effort to build a record in support of energy bills that Republicans want to begin moving through the chamber.



Top House Republicans on March 10 launched their “American Energy Initiative,” aimed at knocking down what they call White House-imposed barriers to U.S. energy production.



The effort will unfold in the Energy and Commerce Committee as well. On Thursday its subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold the first of several hearings on that initiative.

 “This first day in the hearing series will focus on the nation’s oil supplies, gasoline prices and jobs in the Gulf of Mexico,” an advisory states.



Not to be outdone, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a Thursday hearing titled: “Harnessing American resources to create jobs and address rising gasoline prices: Domestic resources and economic impacts.”



Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration’s energy technology budget clash with Republicans will continue.



Energy Secretary Chu will testify Tuesday before the panel of the House Appropriations Committee that crafts energy spending bills.

The White House is seeking to boost funding for green energy research and development, but Republicans are seeking to cut the agency’s funding.



The Energy and Water Development subcommittee is holding another hearing Wednesday on the Energy Department’s budget; Steven Koonin, the department’s undersecretary for science, will testify.



Look for other budget-related hearings as well. On Wednesday, a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee will host EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for a hearing on the agency’s fiscal 2012 budget plan.


It’s an energy-heavy week across the board. The slate of hearings includes a Thursday session in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about “global investment trends in clean energy technologies and the impact of domestic policies on that investment.”