Week ahead: Senate to zone in on climate

Climate change issues are set to hit Capitol Hill again next week, but this time it’s not because of the polar vortex.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), along with fellow Senate Democrats, will formally announce their new climate task force on Tuesday.

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During a briefing with reporters, Boxer said the task force will focus on sending a “wake up call” to climate skeptics and special interests “barricading” Washington and Congress on climate change issues.

Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will continue the climate change discussion on Thursday. Top administration officials will testify at a hearing with the committee on President Obama’s climate agenda.

Expect some heated words at the hearing, as ranking member Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has vowed to continue his crusade against the president’s climate regulations.

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a markup on the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, which aims to provide guidelines for the Environmental Protection Agency on greenhouse gas regulations — an important element of the president’s climate plan.

Another big topic at the moment is railcar safety. With an escalating number of oil-by-rail train accidents, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx plans to meet with rail transportation regulators; a date has yet to be set. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) or one of his staffers will also be present at the meeting, an aide to the senator said.

Speaking of railcar safety, former head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration Brigham McCown will join former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) on Thursday for a group discussion about enforcing regulations and getting better results.

The former chairman of the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission Curt Hebert will also sit on the panel Thursday.

The rest of the week appears to be pretty tame in the energy and environment world.

Off Capitol Hill, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will release its energy policy platform on Wednesday, including specific recommendations on areas in the sector that will improve the U.S. economy.

Also on Wednesday, consulting firm Black and Veatch will hold a briefing on its 2014 predictions for the energy market.

Finally, on Thursday, the U.S. Energy Association will hold its 10th annual State of the Energy Industry Forum.