The week ahead: Fate of EPA climate rules rests on budget battle

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on climate science. Republicans agreed to the hearing after Democrats complained the GOP is moving a bill to permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions without hearing testimony from climate scientists.

Meanwhile, fights over President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2012 energy and environment budget will continue with a slew of hearings in the Senate and House. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will testify before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

The hearings will give Republicans their latest opportunity to blast Salazar for what they see as the slow pace of offshore drilling permits coming out of the department.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will testify on the agency's budget at a joint subcommittee hearing in the House Energy panel Friday, giving Republicans another chance to grill Jackson on EPA's pending climate regulations.

Other committees will hold hearings on Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget as well. The House Natural Resources Committee will hear from Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey on Tuesday, and the House Appropriations Committee will do the same Thursday.

The hearings come as Republicans have slammed the administration for its new “wild lands” policy, which allows the department to protect areas that have not been designated as wilderness land.

On Thursday, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the administration’s research and development budget with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

Other events on Capitol Hill include a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday on the “cumulative impact of regulation on the government”; a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday on legislation to make light bulbs more energy-efficient; and a House Agriculture Committee hearing Thursday on the effect of EPA regulations on farmers.

Amid controversy about the public health hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the EPA is holding a meeting Monday and Tuesday with its Science Advisory Board to review a plan to study the effects of the practice, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into the ground to loosen valuable natural-gas reserves.

Outside Washington, there’s a major energy conference taking place Monday through Friday in Houston. The conference, known as CERAWeek 2011, will include remarks by former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton and BP CEO Robert Dudley.

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