Player of the Week: Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency will be at the center of several debates this week on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, House Republicans unveiled their plan to slash the EPA’s budget by 34 percent in fiscal 2014. The budget blueprint would also block federal rules to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

The lower chamber has also put two energy bills on the floor agenda this week.

Rep. David McKinley’s (R-W.Va.) measure challenges the EPA’s decision to label coal ash as a hazardous material. The bipartisan bill — backed by many Republicans and Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) — cleared the Energy and Commerce panel 31-16.

Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) legislation, the Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013, calls for more stringent cost-benefit analyses of pricey regulations. That bill passed the Energy panel along party lines, 25-18.

Last week, the Senate, as part of the deal to avert the “nuclear option,” approved Gina McCarthy as head of the EPA. She will be very busy.

President Obama, whose legislative effort on climate change fell short in 2009 and 2010, is now tackling the thorny issue through administrative actions.

Proponents of the president’s climate plan will fight to defeat the GOP’s effort to gut the EPA’s funding levels.

But there are some Democrats, especially centrists who are up for reelection in 2014, who are wary of how active the EPA will be over the next several years.

Congressional Republicans usually schedule votes on energy when gas prices are rising, as they are now.

Last week, an official with AAA told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that motorists shouldn’t expect gasoline to ever fall below $3 a gallon.

That’s one of the many reasons energy and the EPA will be hot-button topics for years to come.