Week ahead: EPA in crosshairs of federal courts

The Supreme Court will consider arguments Tuesday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cross-state air pollution rule.

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The rule, which aims to cut soot-and-smog-forming power plant emissions that travel across state lines, was struck down last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

That prompted the EPA and other environmental groups to ask for a Supreme Court review of the case.

The green groups say healthier air is at stake with the court’s decision.

“We believe that the D.C. Circuit erred in overturning cross-state rules for 240 million Americans and the cross-state rule is firmly rooted in science,” said Vickie Patton of the Environmental Defense Counsel.

It’s a big week in court for the EPA, as the D.C. Circuit will hear another case on an EPA rule that limits the amount of mercury, arsenic and other substances that can be spewed into the air from power plants.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are cramming in as much as they can for their last week in session this year.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the EPA’s controversial renewable fuel mandate, which determines the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that refineries must blend into the nation’s fuel supply.

EPA and Energy Department officials are among those set to testify at the Wednesday hearing.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider nominations for Franklin Orr to be the Department of Energy’s (DOE) undersecretary for science, Jonathan Elkind to be assistant secretary of international affairs for the DOE, Rhea Suh to be assistant secretary of fish and wildlife for the Interior Department, and Tommy Beaudreau to be assistant secretary for policy, management and budget for Interior.

It will also vote on the nominations of Steven Croley to be general counsel for the DOE, Christopher Smith to be an assistant secretary of fossil energy for the DOE and Esther Kia’aina to be an assistant secretary for insular at Interior.

The nominations mark a near reshuffle and turnover of President Obama’s upper brass on energy and environmental issues.

Across the way, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold an oversight hearing on Nuclear Regulatory Commission management and whether there is a need for legislative reform.

On Monday, the House Natural Resources Committee will discuss the future of the U.S. and Canada Columbia River Treaty, which has aided 60 years of power generation and flood control, the advisory states.

It will be a busy week off Capitol Hill as well.

On Tuesday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) will discuss the “renaissance” of the country’s oil-and-gas energy industry at a National Press Club luncheon.

Later that day, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Canada Institute will hold a discussion on a new report that dives into energy exploration in Arctic waters and its implications.

The center will host another talk on Wednesday, which centers on how communities in the U.S. can build resilience to climate change and better prepare for the coming century.

Also on Wednesday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) will talk at a Nonproliferation Policy Education Center discussion on U.S. policy toward nuclear cooperative agreements and whether non-weapons states can produce nuclear fuel.

On Friday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies will look at nuclear energy development plans in China, India and South Korea.