Week ahead: EPA chief, Keystone battle in limelight

This week opens with a one-two punch from advocates of tougher steps to fight climate change.

On Monday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will appear at the liberal Center for American Progress to discuss her upcoming visit to China, which will focus on collaboration between the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

“Administrator McCarthy will also highlight recent progress on the President’s Climate Action Plan and steps the United States is taking to reduce carbon pollution and drive sustainable U.S. economic growth,” an advisory states.

Across town on the same day, high-profile opponents of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline — including billionaire activist Tom Steyer — will gather to argue that the project flunks President Obama’s requirements for approval.

Obama said last June that he won’t approve Keystone unless he’s certain that it won’t “significantly” worsen carbon emissions on a “net” basis.

The event in Georgetown is hosted by Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action group and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It will feature several academics who will make the case against the pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

Energy and resource policy is back in the congressional spotlight after the Thanksgiving break.

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will mark up legislation that would require the Treasury Department to reimburse states that paid for the opening of national parks during the recent government shutdown.

On Thursday, a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will hold a hearing on “the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a changing energy landscape.”

“Given the energy resurgence the United States is presently experiencing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s regulatory authority over electricity, natural gas, oil, liquefied natural gas terminals, and hydropower licensing has become increasingly important,” an advisory on the Energy and Power subcommittee hearing states.

The hearing will “focus on the legal and regulatory authorities of FERC and the manner in which it carries out its statutory duties under the Federal Power Act, the Natural Gas Act, and other authorities,” the advisory states.

Off Capitol Hill, on Tuesday the National Research Council will hold a briefing on a new report titled “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.”

“The study examines the likelihood of various physical components of the Earth system undergoing major and rapid changes (e.g., a shutdown of ocean circulation, ice sheet disintegration, etc.), explores how to monitor climate change for warnings of abrupt changes and emerging impacts, and identifies high priority needs for future research directions and monitoring capabilities,” an advisory states.

Also on Tuesday the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the International Energy Agency, who will discuss the agency’s big new World Energy Outlook.

Findings in the sprawling report include a prediction that the U.S. will become the world’s largest oil producer in 2015 and a warning that worldwide carbon emissions are far above the trajectory needed to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius.

Adam Sieminski, head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, will also speak at the CSIS event.

On Wednesday, the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment will host remarks by Cheryl LaFleur, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

She’s also the acting head of FERC following the recent departure of former Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.

The EPA will hold a public hearing Thursday on its recent — and controversial — proposal to scale back the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s motor fuel mix.

The biofuels industry is battling the proposal, which handed a win to oil companies that increasingly are calling the ethanol mandate unworkable.